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New York nurses receive $20.8 million settlement for gender discrimination

City of New York concedes that nurses can retire early due to ‘physically demanding’ role
US legal case

Nurses in the United States have won a $20.8 million (16 million) settlement after the City of New York was forced to admit nursing is a physically demanding profession.

Workers employed in physically demanding roles in New York have the option of retiring with a full pension at the age of 50, if they have worked in such roles for 25 years.

However, the city had previously only granted this status to professions that primarily employed men, such as emergency medical specialists, construction foremen and plumbers.

Nurses and midwives had to wait until age 55 or 57 to retire with full pensions.

Four nurses from the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) challenged this position by making a case of sexual discrimination against the city.

After a legal campaign spanning more than a decade, a settlement has been reached.

Nurses in the United States have won a $20.8 million (£16 million) settlement after the City of New York was forced to admit nursing is a ‘physically demanding’ profession.


Picture: iStock

Workers employed in physically demanding roles in New York have the option of retiring with a full pension at the age of 50, if they have worked in such roles for 25 years.

However, the city had previously only granted this status to professions that primarily employed men, such as emergency medical specialists, construction foremen and plumbers.

Nurses and midwives had to wait until age 55 or 57 to retire with full pensions.

Four nurses from the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) challenged this position by making a case of sexual discrimination against the city. 

After a legal campaign spanning more than a decade, a settlement has been reached.

Moment of victory

NYSNA board member, and one of the original quartet of plaintiffs, Anne Bové, described the result as a ‘victory for all nurses’.

‘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 that women’s work isn’t physically strenuous,’ she said.

The US nurses’ case was taken up by prosecutors from the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.

Announcing the settlement, US attorney for the Eastern District of New York Richard Donoghue said nurses deserved recognition for the demanding role they performed.  

‘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 recognised as doing physically taxing work,’ he said. 

‘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.’

Payments to nurses

According to the US Attorney’s Office, the settlement will be split between around 1,665 nurses and midwives employed by the city between 1965 and 2012, who would have been eligible to apply for early retirement. 

These payments will vary between $1,000 and $99,000, depending on the nurses’ years of service and the number of years earlier they would have been eligible to retire.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has argued that the UK should have a flexible approach to accessing state pensions, with some consideration given to those in ‘physically demanding’ roles. 


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