Lawsuit against city alleges female, minority DSNY workers underpaid for decades
Female and minority Department of Sanitation enforcement agents have filed a class action lawsuit against the city, alleging both racist and sexist discrimination and equal pay violations.
Papers have been served as some sanitation enforcement agents prepare to have their case heard in court. They claim they are doing the same work, yet getting half the pay when compared to some of their counterparts.
Philip Seelig is an attorney taking on this case. He says DSNY has been discriminating against women and minorities for decades.
“The difference is that the sanitation police are covered by the sanitation worker contract-- and are paid approximately twice as much as what sanitation enforcement agents are,” he says.
Seelig says unequal pay also impacts the amount workers get when they retire.
“We want these workers to be paid equally and not to be treated more poorly…When they retire, their pension is based on their final average salary,” he says. “If you have a $100,000 salary and to get 50% of your pension, you'll be getting $50,000. But if you're earning $50,000 a year and your pensions 50% of your final average salary, you're only getting $25,000 a year as a retiree. So not only does it impact you as to what you earn, it impacts your retired years.”
Dameka Dowdy, who has been working for DSNY for nearly two decades as a sanitation enforcement agent, says she’s felt she’s been paid unequally.
“I work all the time. I'm doing my job and someone's doing the same job and they're getting double to triple the pay and we are doing the exact same thing,” she says.
Dowdy says she is just one of the many who feel underappreciated and underpaid.
“We have been in arbitration and are waiting on decisions, but it's been a long time that we haven't had a raise. The enforcement has not had a raise in pay in over 11 years,” she says.
Seelig adds, “We are asking for a jury trial because we feel that a class action jury will see the value for proper treatment of women and minority workers that do the same work for half the pay.”
The DSNY told News 12 the roles of a sanitation police officer and sanitation enforcement agent are important but are very different. It says assaying enforcement agents can only observe conditions, while sanitation police can make arrests and carry weapons.