For Immediate Release
Contact: Mark Genovese, 518.782.9400, ext. 353
NEW YORK, Dec 20, 2007 – Saying city nurses are being denied the right to a fair pension, more than 1,000 complaints of gender discrimination will be filed against the City of New York and the City Council on Friday, Dec. 21.
The complaints will be delivered in person by registered nurses at 10 a.m. to the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission’s Manhattan office at 33 Whitehall St. The 7,100 RNs employed by the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation and mayoral agencies are represented by the New York State Nurses Association. Association representatives will be available to answer questions about the charges.
The City Administrative Code provides for earlier pension eligibility for occupations that are considered “physically taxing.” This is defined as jobs requiring “heavy duty and extraordinary effort.” Studies have shown that nursing meets these criteria, in that nurses are at a high risk for back injuries stemming from the repeated manual handling of patients which often involve lifting, transferring and repositioning of patients.
But because nursing is a traditionally female dominated profession, nurses have been excluded from this provision. The nurses have twice introduced legislation to correct this inequity. Both times it was blocked as a result of political game-playing.
“Despite our society’s success in addressing many civil rights issues during the past several decades, gender discrimination is still pervasive in New York City,” said Nancy Kaleda, senior associate director of the Nurses Association’s collective bargaining program.
“Although the type of work registered nurses perform may be different from other occupations currently designated as ‘physically taxing,’ nurses spend most of their work hours walking or standing where they are required to lift, move, and reposition patients,” Kaleda said. “The cumulative negative effects on their bodies are no less than those suffered by any employee in a male-dominated profession.”
Studies have shown that nurses who manually handle patients run a substantial risk for lower back injuries. Moving patients can exert up to 2,000 pounds of force on a nurse’s lumbar spine and it has been estimated that nurses lift an equivalent of 1.8 tons per shift. Nearly 40% of nurses will sustain significant back injuries during their careers. In 1998, 61,600 nurses nationwide had to take time off of work due to back injuries, more than construction laborers, janitors, and carpenters.
This injury rate is directly related to the number of RNs who retire early. The average age of RNs in New York State is 47 years. Largely due to the physically taxing nature of the profession, the average retirement age for registered nurses in New York is only 49.
“We don’t understand how the city could have abandoned the nurses of HHC,” Kaleda said. “That nurses should have to turn to this is an embarrassment for the city of New York, which supposedly prides itself on being one of the most progressive employers in the nation. Moreover, this status will result in no increased costs to the city, as nurses who would benefit from this change will make additional contributions from their salaries.”
“NYSNA, for its part,” said Kaleda, “has not abandoned city nurses and will continue to fight to obtain what rightfully belongs to the nurses. NYSNA will pursue every avenue until physically taxing is a reality for city nurses. It is our hope that the EEOC will see the facts as they are and find that government of the City of New York has failed its nurses.”
With more than 35,000 members, the New York State Nurses Association fosters high standards of nursing education, research, and practice; engages in legislative activity; and provides collective bargaining services to registered nurses. Its mission is to advance the profession of nursing and protect the public's health.