New York City this week announced a $20.8 million settlement with a group of nurses in a dispute stemming from a municipal policy about public employees’ access to retirement with full pension benefits. City workers employed in professions deemed “physically taxing” were allow to retire at the age of 50 — as long as they also had 25 years of service — which was five to seven years earlier than other jobs.
The “physically taxing” designation was extended to hundreds of jobs, ranging from “Able Seaman” to “Window Cleaner.” Not on the list: “Nurses.”
“Everyone knows that the nursing profession, 95 percent of our time we’re standing on our feet,” Curlean Duncan-Britton, a nurse at Brooklyn’s Kings County Hospital, told The New York Times.
Duncan-Britton was joined by two colleagues in initiating the complaint about the unfair exclusion of nurses from the “physically taxing jobs” list. The first notice was filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2008.
To a large degree, the complain hinged on the fact that most nurses are female, while professions given privileged status on the city’s list were disproportionately occupied by men. When the commision found — in a 2010 decision — that the city was discriminatory towards nurses, it noted membership of the New York State Nurses Association was 95 percent women.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing is among the professions with the highest rate of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work. An American Nurses Association survey found 42 percent of nurses reported the lifting or repositioning of heavy objects as a regular work duty.
The policy offering early retirement to city workers in “physically taxing” jobs was discontinued for new hires in 2012. According to estimates, approximately 1,665 nurses who joined the city payroll between 1965 and 2012 are eligible for a piece of the settlement. Payouts are expected to range from $1,000 to $99,000.
Ann Bové, a 40-year veteran of the nursing profession, was one of those who first raised the issue of unfair exclusion from the “physically taxing” jobs list.. She told the New York Daily News that the recognition was important for the entire field of healthcare.
“If you didn’t take care of the people who took care of the people, nobody’s getting taking care of,” said Bové.
Filed Under: Industry regulations