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Sex discrimination case produces $20.8 million for nurses

Registered nurses and midwives employed by the City of New York have won their sex discrimination case that began with a complaint from the New York State Nurses Association 10 years ago. City-employed nurses had been denied access to full retirement benefits at the age of 50 if they had worked for 25 years because their positions were not classified as physically taxing. Other city workers in male-dominated positions, like plumbers, exterminators or emergency medical technicians, had long enjoyed access to their pensions at age 50 because their jobs had the physically taxing label. Nurses generally had to work until 55 or 57 to earn full retirement benefits.

As a female-dominated profession, the association blamed gender discrimination for the city's blindness to the heavy lifting performed by nurses. Job duties for nursing staff require workers to be on their feet throughout their work shifts and frequently move patients and heavy medical equipment. A board member for the association said that nurses move an average of 1.8 tons of weight every shift.

After the association filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2008, the case eventually went to court and resulted in the city agreeing to pay $20.8 million to nurses unfairly denied benefits at age 50. The settlement will be divided among eligible current and former employees.

Employment discrimination can take many forms, and a person with questions about unfair treatment at work could consult an attorney. A legal analysis of policies or behaviors that appear motivated by prejudices regarding sex, age, race or religion could uncover evidence to support a lawsuit. An attorney could prepare court paperwork and confront the employer with evidence about illegal conduct. A settlement for damages might include compensation for unpaid wages or benefits and corrections to workplace policies.

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