Police, Plaintiffs Agree to Mediation

Posted June 27, 2003 at 3:17pm

Capitol Police Department officials have agreed to mediation with three employees who filed a lawsuit in March alleging racial discrimination.

“Both parties have jointly requested mediation,” said police spokeswoman Jessica Gissubel.

Any mediation process will need to be approved by the U.S. District judge overseeing the case, said Malik Cutlar, the attorney representing plaintiffs Ava Johnson, Hattie Lucas and Peggy Wilson.

The three women, all of whom are black, are employed by the Capitol Police Board’s Office of Financial Management. The women assert they were not given equal consideration for job training, promotions and salary increases, according to the complaint.

They are seeking both economic and non-economic damages, but Cutlar declined to discuss a specific amount, and details are not listed in the court filing.

The plaintiffs assert that at various times, financial management office Director Maryjean Jablonicky, who is white, denied them opportunities for additional job training or pay raises while approving similar items for white employees.

The March complaint states: “Ms. Jablonicky’s discriminatory attitude toward the Plaintiffs is also demonstrated by the fact that she has referred to them as ‘those worthless people,’ and she has down-graded the job titles of Plaintiffs Johnson and Lucas after they filed a claim of discrimination.”

Additionally, the women say they were denied the use of laptops to take home work when such equipment had been provided to at least one white employee. They also claim their work space was located in an “open space area,” while white employees had been provided offices.

“When you have a situation where your immediate supervisor who works the closest with you is recommending you for a promotion or merit increase and that is knocked down, it is apparent that there is something going on here that is very suspect,” Cutlar said. “In addition to the fact that it is very clear from the attitude and what’s been said regarding the treatment of these three women that they’re being treated in a substandard way as compared to the white employees in the budget and procurement offices. I don’t think there is any real dispute about that.”

Despite the pending mediation agreement, Cutlar said he is still preparing for trial, citing an earlier mediation attempt required by the Congressional Accountability Act.

The women first sought mediation through the Office of Compliance, which they contacted in May 2002 with similar complaints, as well as claims they had been subject to a hostile work environment and retaliation.

The women completed the mediation process without a resolution in December 2002.

“Frankly the offers put forward, and I won’t be specific, were not very positive for settlement. We don’t know that so much has changed since that time,” Cutlar said.

The Capitol Police also filed a motion May 30 to dismiss claims by Lucas, based in part on several of the incidents Lucas cited that occurred outside of a 180-day period specified in the Congressional Accountability Act.