New York City agreed to a $20.8 million gender discrimination settlement in Brooklyn federal court Wednesday for allegedly shorting registered nurses and midwives on pension benefits by claiming that their work was not “physically taxing.”
The settlement with the Justice Department said that since 1968, the city allowed workers in predominantly male job categories — such as EMTs, exterminators, plumbers and window cleaners — to qualify for full pensions starting at age 50 after 25 years of service because they were “physically taxing,” while nurses and midwives had to wait until age 55 or 57.
The settlement, which followed a complaint made to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, applies to a class of 1,665 nurses and midwives hired by the city from 1965 through 2012, who will receive between $1,000 and $99,000 from the settlement.
“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 Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue, whose office pursued the case after the EEOC found in favor of the nurses and midwives.
The EEOC complaint, the government said, followed complaints about the practice from the New York State Nurses Association which city officials rejected in 2004, 2006 and 2008.
City Hall spokesman Raul Contreras said in a statement: “As soon as Mayor [Bill] de Blasio came into office, he acknowledged that nurses and midwives have difficult, physically demanding jobs and committed to resolving their claims.”
“After working closely with the DOJ and NYSNA, approximately 1,700 currently employed and retired nurses and midwives will see a fair and equitable resolution for their years of service,” the statement said.
Anne Bove, one of the plaintiffs in the case and a board member of the state nurses association, called past practices a “great historical injustice” in a statement.
“Though the past cannot be changed,” she said, “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.”