Pay-Scale Gender Bias, Crossing Guards Claim

     MANHATTAN (CN) – New York City discriminates against women by paying its school crossing guards, most of whom are women, significantly less than it pays the traffic enforcement agents, most of whom are men, a federal class action claims.
     The complaint filed Thursday identifies 220 female school crossing guards as plaintiffs, hailing from each of the city’s five boroughs of New York, who say they “are treated unfairly because they are women.”
     “School crossing guards are uniformed employees of the NYC Police Department,” but they “are paid significantly less than Level II Traffic Enforcement Agents (‘TEA IIs’) of the New York City Police Department’s Traffic Enforcement Division,” the complaint states.
     Lead plaintiff Shirley Miller, who acts as the union chair, says the pay difference “is a vestige of an era when working as a school crossing Guard was a job given to women to supplement their family income.”
     Though the guards used to work for the NYC Board of Education, their “responsibilities became more like that of TEA IIs” under the NYPD, the complaint states.
     These responsibilities include standing at intersections to direct traffic, handle bottlenecks, and “provide the safe transit of motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.”
     The guards note that their work is “substantially equal” to that of the TEA IIs, “requiring equal skill, effort and responsibility.”
     “For no reason related to their responsibilities, school crossing guards, who are predominantly female, are paid significantly less then [sic] their predominantly male counterparts who are TEA IIs,” the complaint says.
     According to the complaint, as of January 2014, school crossing guards, who are limited to 25 hours per week, are paid $9.88 per hour at appointment and $12.90 after three years. TEA IIs, however, are permitted to work fulltime and are paid $31,487 at appointment and $38,159 after one year, amounting to hourly rates of $15.13 and $18.34, respectively.
     Indicating that the $9.88 wage cited in the complaint might be incorrect or outdated, the City Office of Labor Relations notes that the new-hire rate in effect is $11.79.
     Miller says the city knowingly permits the pay disparity out of a “desire to ‘control labor costs.'”
     The school crossing guards seek an order requiring New York City to pay them as much as it pays TEA IIs and to allow them to work more than 25 hours per week. They also ask for a judgment mandating the city to implement programs providing equal employment opportunities to school crossing guards and to establish a task force monitoring the effectiveness of the programs.
     Arthur Schwartz and Richard Soto represent the class of school crossing guards. Schwartz says he sees the lawsuit as an effort to tackle both gender-based pay disparity and the pay disparity between the private and public sectors.
     “There are 20,000 city workers who make less than $15 per hour,” Schwartz said in a phone interview. “The goal of this lawsuit is to begin the process of getting for government employees the same living wage [as] private sector employees.”
     The New York City Law Department said it will review the suit.

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