DOJ Earns NYC Nurses $20.8 Million in Pension Gender Bias Suit

The City of New York (the “City”) agreed on July 18, 2018, to pay $20.8 million to settle a suit brought against it by the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”). According to the settlement papers, filed in the Eastern District of New York, the City was accused of violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by requiring registered nurses (“RNs”) and midwives, the majority of whom are female, to work years longer than employees in predominantly male fields to earn retirement with full pensions.

According to the DOJ, the City classifies many male-dominated professions, including ferry captains, highway repairers, and plumbers, as “physically taxing,” which allows workers to retire with full pensions starting at age 50, instead of the usual minimum age of 55 or 57. RNs and midwives do not benefit from this designation, despite physically demanding job requirements, such as lifting patients.

The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York stated that “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…Equal treatment under law means just that.”

The DOJ claims the class of over 1,600 current and former RNs and midwives will benefit from the $20.632 million settlement. The City also agreed to pay attorneys’ fees of $100,000 to the New York State Nurses Association (“NYSNA”). According to the DOJ complaint, the NYSNA has unsuccessfully requested to add RNs and midwives to the list of physically taxing jobs since 2004 and finally filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) in 2008. The four individual nurses who joined the EEOC complaint will each receive $25,000.

Each of the 1,665 class members will be paid between $1,000 and $99,000, depending on how many years they worked and for how many years they could have been retired had their job been designated as physically taxing. Seventy RNs who worked a minimum of 25 years by the end of 2016 and could have retired five years sooner are set to receive the $99,000 maximum.

Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore commented, “This settlement agreement will provide significant relief to a class of female nurses and midwives employed by the city of New York who were harmed by the city’s discriminatory employment practices.”

One of the nurses involved in the EEOC compliant, Anne Bove, said the deal represents “a victory for all nurses and a testament to the hard, physically demanding work that nurses do every day.” She said in a statement that the deal 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.”

The legal team at Shepherd, Finkelman, Miller & Shah, LLP (“SFMS”) has significant experience litigating class action and employment matters. If you have any questions regarding this subject or this posting, please contact Nick Lussier or Chiharu Sekino. We can also be reached toll-free at (866) 540-5505.

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Campbell, Branden. “NYC To Pay $21M To End DOJ’s Nurse Pensions Bias Row.” Law 360. Last modified on July 18, 2018.