The Capitol Police department has its hands full with changes in leadership, threats of budget cuts and preparations for the 2013 presidential inauguration.
These days, the agency also has to contend with the Capitol Police Labor Committee, which is representing a growing number of black and female officers who say they are being mistreated by management based on their race and gender.
In late May, Labor Committee President Jim Konczos filed a complaint with Capitol Police Inspector General Carl Hoecker. That complaint, obtained only recently by Roll Call, highlights a number of cases in which officers reported difficulties requesting time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Two of Konczos' examples involve officers who are mothers: One, while pregnant, allegedly had her FMLA request denied for improperly filed paperwork; the other said her supervisors approved her for time off under FMLA but lost her personal information and children's medical records in the process.
In June, the union helped a group of black officers file a formal complaint with the Office of Compliance alleging improper handling of FMLA requests, which the complaint attributes in part to the officers' race. The union also appealed to the Congressional Black Caucus for advocacy.
Now, the latest Capitol Police employee to join the chorus of concerns is a black female officer who claims management is not being cooperative regarding her attempts to pump breast milk during the workday following the birth of her daughter.
Preparing to file her own OOC complaint within the week, the officer is citing a discrepancy between her treatment and that of her white counterparts who she says were able to use unlimited time to pump breast milk without having to go off the clock.
This officer said she pumps milk about three times a day for 20 minutes at a time during an eight-hour workday. It is a five-minute walk from her post to the office designated for her use. That's roughly one and a half hours per workday to breast-feed, the equivalent of all the fully compensated break time she is permitted in a day.
In her complaint, she contends that her movements are closely monitored and that she has to sign in and out of her post each time she goes to pump. If this custom-made log sheet goes over one and a half hours, she has to forfeit some of her pay.
"I've never seen that done before," Konczos said of the sign-in system. "That would be something that I would have heard about."
"This department wasn't built for women," said one female officer who asked not to be identified. "There's no policy, no special order for mothers wishing to breast-feed ... it's just amazing to me after all these years, and it being 2012."
The mounting pressure from these officers might remind Capitol Hill veterans of the ongoing lawsuit first filed by more than 200 current and former black Capitol Police officers in 2001 and named for the lead plaintiff, Sharon Blackmon-Malloy, a retired officer and vice president of the U.S. Capitol Black Police Association.
An offshoot of that case, involving 51 black officers currently employed by the Capitol Police, is moving slowly through the D.C. Circuit Court.
Konczos said he hopes this round of allegations don't elevate to the level of formal legal action, but he said he was "disappointed" with management's lack of action four months after he filed his grievances with the inspector general.
Capitol Police spokeswoman Lt. Kimberly Schneider, who cannot comment on personnel matters or pending litigation, could only say that "it is the longstanding policy and practice of the USCP to encourage all of our employees to use the process in place to file their complaints so that management, while adhering to all applicable law, can continue to work with our employees towards resolution."
Roll Call has launched a new feature, Hill Navigator, to advise congressional staffers and would-be staffers on how to manage workplace issues on Capitol Hill. Please send us your questions anything from office etiquette, to handling awkward moments, to what happens when the work life gets too personal. Submissions will be treated anonymously.