probation officer

NYC Probation Department Hit with Racial Discrimination Class-Action Lawsuit

By Douglas Lipsky

All employees in New York are protected against discrimination under local, state and federal law, including wage discrimination. Now, a federal discrimination class-action lawsuit against the New York City Probation Department indicates that discrimination is not only a problem in the private sector but the public sector as well.

Given that the city and state have an obligation to enforce their anti-discrimination laws, it’s reasonable to expect that municipal and state agencies would have internal procedures to prevent discrimination and harassment in their wide-ranging workplaces. Regardless of where it occurs, discrimination in the workplace against so-called “protected classes” of employees (meaning most employees) is unlawful. 

While the outcome of the class-action lawsuit against the Probation Department remains to be seen, workers in New York who have been discriminated against have powerful recourse under applicable employment laws. The best way to protect your rights is to consult with an experienced employment lawyer. In the meantime, let’s take a look at the latest case of racial and gender discrimination against a government agency.

The Case Against the Probation Department

Five female probation officers sued the department in Manhattan Federal Court, alleging they are paid less and promoted less compared to white male officers. The plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit, which has been joined by the Probation Officers Union, are African American and Latinx.

“For too long our work has been undervalued because our members are predominantly women and people of color,” said President of the United Probation Officers Association Dalvanie Powell.

According to the complaint, the plaintiffs claim that they’ve been underpaid for years. Also, despite being asked to take on more responsibilities, the plaintiffs were denied promotions, one of whom retired in 2019 after 36 years on the job. 

The complaint also states that while women of color account for the majority of probation officers at the agency, they are paid significantly less than men when the department was staffed mainly by white male officers. According to the lawsuit:

  • City probation officers have historically been white men
  • Currently, over 90 percent of the agency’s officers are non-white and 80 percent are women

The complaint alleges that the plaintiffs have had to “take on overwhelmingly more work, with less support and less pay.” In particular, the lawsuit claims that an analysis of pay rate data shows that the Probation Department engaged in

  1. A pattern or practice of wage suppression against minority officers
  2. Disparate promotional and other employment practices that adversely impacted minority female employees

Why This Matters

Employment discrimination can impact anyone, but women of color are more at risk of being discriminated against in a variety of workplaces. If you have been subjected to discrimination on the job, it is important to know your rights. Talk to an experienced employment lawyer today.

About the Author
Douglas Lipsky is a co-founding partner of Lipsky Lowe LLP. He has extensive experience in all areas of employment law, including discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, wrongful discharge, breach of contract, unpaid overtime, and unpaid tips. He also represents clients in complex wage and hour claims, including collective actions under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and class actions under the laws of many different states. If you have questions about this article, contact Douglas today.