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Nassau male 911 operators to sue for pay

Thirty current or retired male 911 operators are to file a federal class action lawsuit against Nassau County Wednesday, alleging they are being paid significantly less than their female counterparts, who won an equal pay lawsuit last year.

The male plaintiffs, all members of the Civil Service Employees Association, want about $2.8 million in back pay from 1999 to the present, primarily for step increases that were never awarded. All but one of the men still work for the county.

The suit, to be filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, names Nassau, its police department, the Civil Service Commission and County Executive Edward Mangano as defendants.

"These men are performing the same duties as the female communications operators but are being paid much less," said their attorney, Louis Stober Jr. of Garden City.

Stober said he also plans to file a discrimination complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission later this month.

County Attorney John Ciampoli said his office would not comment until the suit has been formally filed.

Gary Volpe, a 911 operator since 1998, said he is owed roughly $60,000 in back pay.

"The county needs to make the working class whole," said Volpe, the 911 Operators Unit president. "We should get what we are owed."

The new case piggybacks on a class-action lawsuit filed in 2005 on behalf of about 150 female 911 operators and supervisors who claimed they were paid about $10,000 less per year each than Nassau fire communications operators -- nearly all of them men -- in violation of the New York State Equal Pay Act.

In December, the women reached a $7 million settlement with the county, which included step increases that elevated their salaries above the male 911 operators.

The county has about 172 police communications operators, more than 90 percent of whom are female.

The class-action suit asks the court to apply the women's seniority steps to the male operators.

The 30 plaintiffs range in experience from nine years on the job to 31 years, Stober said, the latter of whom would be eligible for back pay of more than $100,000, if the lawsuit were to prevail.

Stober asserts that the bulk of the men are owed $40,000 to $60,000 in back pay.

The precise amount each plaintiff would be owed will depend on their years of service and their placement on the salary schedule.

The female operators had to retain an economist to make the final calculations and the men will probably do the same, Stober said.

The suit also asks for punitive damages for the county's "willful and intentional acts" against the men, and for attorney's fees.

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