Teamster’s Local 237 Sues NYC for Wage Discrimination

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This week the country commemorated 50 years since President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the first federal antidiscrimination law that addressed gender-based pay disparities. But here in NYC, Mayor Bloomberg has been practicing his own form of gender discrimination: predominantly female School Safety Agents are paid $7,000 less than predominantly male Special Officers who work in shelters, hospitals and public buildings. After several attempts to remedy the pay disparity during contract negotiations, Teamster’s Local 237 is suing Bloomberg.

“Mayor Bloomberg needs to engage on this issue now. We don’t understand why the city has chosen to drag this suit out against the brave women who are putting themselves on the line each and every day to ensure the safety and well-being of our public schoolchildren,” said Local 237 President Gregory Floyd. “Mr. Mayor, equal pay for equal work is one of our fundamental rights. Let’s act now to end gender-based discrimination among city employees.”

There are 5,000 School Safety Agents, 70% of whom are female. They are subject to the same collective bargaining agreement as Special officers who are 70% male. School Safety Agents perform substantially the same job duties as Special Agents. Both School Safety Agents and Special Officers are peace officers empowered to make warrantless arrests and searches, confiscate weapons and other contraband, carry handcuffs and use deadly force when reasonably necessary. Both are employed to provide security at public buildings and facilities within NYC. Both are subject to the same collective bargaining agreement regarding holidays, health insurance, overtime, shift differential, payroll, time and leave, line of duty injury benefits, layoffs and personnel rules, retirement benefits, and the handling of Workers’ Compensation claims by the city’s Law Department. School Safety Agents and Special Officers are also part of the same pension plan.
School Safety Agents and Special Officers have centralized personnel administration that handles all payroll matters as well as creation of job descriptions and titles. Both titles file online to take competitive exams which are substantially similar. Both titles require a minimum score of 70%. School Safety Agents undergo training at the NYC Police Academy. Special Officers must undergo training through the City University of New York Public Safety Academy. Both titles work under similar job conditions. School Safety Agents and Special Officers also wear substantially similar summer and winter uniforms and carry similar equipment.

In fact, the city has previously asserted that the School Safety Agent and Special Officer titles are comparable. Yet, the current maximum annual pay rate for a School Safety Agent is $35,323. The current maximum annual pay rate for a Special Officer is $42,332.

The starting salaries of School Safety Agents and Special Officers are approximately equal, but within three years of service they diverge dramatically to the $7,000 a year pay differential in favor of Special Officers over School Safety Agents although School Safety Agents and Special Officers continue to perform substantially similar work under similar working conditions.

The same $7,000 a year pay differential in favor of Special Officers over School Safety Agents continues at the slightly higher pay levels for supervisory personnel –called “Sergeants” for Special Officers and “Level 3’s” for School Safety Agents, – despite modest longevity increases.

The Teamster Local 237 lawsuit contends that the city intentionally pays School Safety Agents and Special Officers different compensation despite the fact that they perform substantially similar work under similar working conditions.

According to the Teamster brief, the union made strenuous efforts to obtain parity in compensation between School Safety Agents and Special Officers during negotiations over the collective bargaining agreement in 2008, but the city flatly refused. When the city was notified that the union would likely commence a lawsuit, the city continued to refuse to remedy the pay disparity. According to the brief, The city’s attitude expressed at the collective bargaining table was: “So, sue us.”

Teamster’s Local 237 alleges that the city is violating the federal Equal Pay Act, Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act and the NYS Human Rights Law by willfully compensating the predominantly female School Safety Agent workforce at a lower rate of pay than it compensates the predominantly male Special Officer workforce. The minority of males in the School Safety Agent title are also direct victims of the city’s willful discrimination in regards to pay, as they are compensated at a lesser rate of pay than Special Officers because they are employed in the predominately female School Safety Agent title.

On behalf of School Safety Agents, Teamster’s Local 237 is requesting that the court permanently prevent NYC from engaging in pay discrimination and enter a judgment for back pay.