The city of New York has agreed to pay $20.8 million to settle federal charges for discriminating against registered nurses and midwives because they are women.
The U.S. Department of Justice announced the proposed settlement on Wednesday will compensate approximately 1,665 city-employed registered nurses and midwives who were subject to gender discrimination.
New York City failed to recognize the work of predominantly female registered nurses and midwives as "physically taxing", according to the complaint. However, other predominantly male occupations, such as exterminators, plumbers, window cleaners and EMTs were deemed by the city as physically taxing.
City employees in those predominantly male jobs were allowed to retire with full pensions as early as age 50. Registered nurses and midwives, however, had to wait until age 55 or 57 to retire with full pensions, according to the DOJ.
"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," said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore.
"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 U.S. Attorney Richard 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."
The New York State Nurses Association, the union representing city-employed registered nurses and midwives, began requesting in 2004 that the city recognize the work of registered nurses and midwives as physically taxing and allow its qualifying members the option of retiring at age 50.
The city denied the request in 2004, 2006 and 2008, and the NYSNA and four of its members filed a complaint with the EEOC.
In the settlement, which is subject to court approval, the city would pay these registered nurses and midwives for the number of years they would have been eligible to retire earlier and attorney's fees. Four nurses who initiated the complaint also will receive $100,000 from the city.
The NYSNA called the settlement "historic" and a victory for all nurses.
"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, in a prepared statement.