FOR IMMEDIATE RELESEASE: JULY 18, 2018
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NEW YORK STATE NURSES ASSOCIATION ANNOUNCES HISTORIC MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR SETTLEMENT OF GENDER DISCRIMINATION CLAIMS AGAINST THE CITY OF NEW YORK AFFECTING OVER 1,600 PUBLIC HOSPITAL NURSES
SETTLEMENT IS BASED ON A DISCRIMINATION COMPLAINT FILED BY NYSNA AND INDIVIDUAL NURSES OVER A DECADE AGO FOR FAILURE TO RECOGNIZE NURSING AS A PHYSICALLY TAXING OCCUPATION
NYSNA COMMENDS PROSECUTORS FROM THE U.S. ATTORNEY’S OFFICE EASTERN DISTRICT FOR THEIR WORK ON THE CASE
$20.8 MILLION DOLLARS WILL BE SHARED BY MORE THAN 1600 NURSES WHO WERE DENIED PHYSICALLY TAXING RETIREMENT RIGHTS BECAUSE NURSING IS A PREDOMINANTLY WOMEN’S JOB TITLE
NEW YORK --- The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) announced today a historic multi-million-dollar settlement of sex discrimination claims against the City of New York that affects over 1,600 nurses who work in the City’s public hospitals.
The case was handled by prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Eastern District of New York.
“The settlement is a victory for all nurses and a testament to the hard, physically demanding work that nurses do every day for those in need of care in the public hospitals. It is an acknowledgement of the injustice done to our sister and brother nurses who were denied recognition of the difficult nature of our work, all based on the discriminatory perception that nurses are mostly women and women’s work isn’t physically strenuous,” said Anne Bové, NYSNA Board Member and one of the plaintiffs in the case. “This was a great historical injustice against nurses and though the past cannot be changed, it is high time that the injustice be recognized and that affected nurses are at least compensated for being excluded from earning the same pension rights that other workers in physically taxing jobs received solely on the basis of sex.”
The settlement is based on a sex discrimination complaint filed by NYSNA and four NYSNA-represented public sector nurses ten years ago after the City of New York repeatedly refused to recognize that the overwhelmingly female nursing workforce performs “physically taxing” work and is entitled to equal treatment with the dozens of predominantly male job titles that are formally included on the list.
Job titles that are classified as “physically taxing” are allowed to retire early with no reduction in their pensions because their jobs are physically strenuous. Under the Physically Taxing pension rules, qualified employees in the Tier 4 55/25 and 57/5 pension plans can retire as early as age fifty if they have worked for twenty-five years or more. The City of New York had discretion to add titles to the physically taxing list of titles eligible for early retirement. The city recognized jobs that were traditionally performed by men like bricklayer, mechanic, drill operator, paver, exterminator and dozens of others as physically taxing and eligible for early retirement, but excluded jobs that were normally performed by women like registered nurses and midwives.
Starting in 2004, NYSNA made repeated requests that those nursing job titles be added to the list of “Physically Taxing” occupation titles – to no avail. Although the City had the power to update the list, it repeatedly refused to add the registered nurse or midwife titles represented by NYSNA.
In July of 2008, Anne Bové, three other nurses, and NYSNA filed a formal charge with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging the City of New York discriminated against them on the basis of sex because registered nurse and midwife titles were not on the “Physically Taxing” list.
The EEOC agreed – finding that the physical requirements needed to care for patients in public hospitals across the city exposed nurses to rates of injury, illness and physical strain that are among the highest of all job titles. Nurses are on their feet for most of their shifts, are required to lift and transport patients and equipment amounting to thousands of pounds, are exposed to a wide range of communicable diseases, face high rates of workplace violence, and are exposed to various environmental hazards.
More than 1,600 negatively affected nurses will share in the $20.8 million-dollar settlement, based on their particular age and years of service. Under state law, only nurses who are in the Tier 4 55/25 and 57/5 pension plans are eligible for physically taxing pension rights. Employees who are in the Tier 4 62/5 or the Tier 6 pension plan that went into effect in April 2012 are excluded from the “Physically Taxing” pension plan provisions by state law, and thus cannot participate in the settlement.
“NYSNA thanks the City of New York for their settlement today and for finally recognizing that nurses and midwives are among the hardest working residents of this city. Unfairly denying pension benefits to NYSNA nurses was wrong and fixing this wrong was long overdue. Regardless of our gender or occupation, nurses are as deserving as anyone of equal benefits and respect for the tireless work we do every single day,” said Judith Cutchin, RN, NYSNA Board Member and President, NYSNA's H+H/Mayorals Executive Council
“We wanted to acknowledge and thank both the U.S. Attorneys working on this case, as well as the Office of Labor Relations, for their efforts in helping us bring this matter to such a positive conclusion. The settlement agreement, reached after more than a decade, recognizes that public health nurses who care for our most vulnerable population perform work as strenuous and taxing as that in the male dominated professions,” said Susan Davis, General Counsel for NYSNA and Partner at Cohen, Weiss and Simon, LLP.
“City nurses and midwives care for sick and injured adults, juveniles and infants through long days and nights under difficult circumstances, and rightfully should be recognized as doing physically taxing work,” said United States Attorney Richard P. Donoghue. “Equal treatment under law means just that, equal treatment and this Office is committed to ensuring that women are treated fairly and equitably in the workplace.”