EEOC Finds NYC Discriminated Against City Employees

Yarelyn Mena

In April 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigated allegations that approximately 1,000 female and minority New York City administrative managers earned less than their white, male counterparts and received fewer promotions. “Pay gap” problems have long plagued New York City; although former mayor Michael R. Bloomberg put New York City’s current salary and promotion policies in place, the EEOC believes that “structural and historical problems” have prolonged the pay gap for women and minorities long before Bloomberg’s time. The EEOC investigation covered a total of six years, from 2009 to the present.

The EEOC’s investigation found that female and minority employees’ “rate of pay is much less than [those of] their white male counterparts in similarly situated jobs and titles.” As such, the EEOC recommended that the City pay a total of $246 million in back wages and damages, as well as begin to develop solutions to prevent future discrimination. Should the City refuse to negotiate, the EEOC made clear that it will file a lawsuit.

A spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, Amy Spitalnick, believes that the results of the EEOC’s investigation did not prove that the city participated in any discrimination, stating, “Administrative managers hold a wide variety of positions across many city agencies, with varying levels of responsibilities – and therefore have a very broad range of salaries.” Conversely, President of the Local 1180 of the Communications Workers of America, the union that represents the City’s administrative managers, Arthur Cheliotes, stated, “The [EEOC’s] findings are a federal indictment of the systematic inequality of the city’s personnel practices that this administration has inherited, and that our mayor has repeatedly stated he wishes to correct in our city.”

The EEOC’s solution includes a number of proposed structural changes that will create new promotion policies. One proposed change is a mandatory exam for its employees every four years. This exam will allow employers to see which employees are fit for a promotion, testing employees’ knowledge of his or her job, as opposed to the informal selection process currently in place, which often excludes female and minority employees. A second proposed change is for employers to provide more information to all staff about opportunities for career advancement, including notifications for open positions and general job descriptions for higher level positions. This change attempts to address the EEOC’s findings that many female and minority employees were not aware of advancement opportunities or feared asking about such opportunities would result in retaliation. The EEOC hopes that by broadly publicizing vacancies, the City will encourage minority groups to apply. In addition to these changes, the EEOC also recommended an increase in the minimum salary for administrative managers, to lessen the wage gap.

The EEOC’s efforts to wipe the City clean of pay and promotion discrimination will motivate thousands of local New Yorkers to continue working for our city and give them the opportunity to advance. Even though this attention is long overdue, we should be hopeful that the EEOC will ensure equal opportunities for future generation of workers.

If you believe your employer has discriminated against you, please contact The Harman Firm, LLP.