Workplace discrimination is alive and well and continues to hamper the careers of women, people of color, and others. Sometimes people facing discrimination get the courage to push back, though. For example, five female officers working in New York City’s Probation Department recently filed a discrimination lawsuit in Manhattan Federal court against their employer over allegations they’re being “paid less and promoted less than white male officers have been in the past.” The plaintiffs include Black and Latina officers and they’re being represented by the Probation Officers Union.
According to the lawsuit, “women of color make up a majority of officers at the agency, yet are currently paid significantly less than men were when the Probation Department was staffed mainly by white male officers.” The plaintiffs, Jean Brown, Tanga Johnson, Tara Smith, and Cathy Washington, who are Black, and Emma Stovall, who is Hispanic, further allege they’ve “been underpaid for years, despite being asked to take on more job responsibilities, often without getting actual promotions.” Johnson spent 36 years on the job before retiring in 2019.
When commenting on the suit, Dalvanie Powell, the President of the United Probation Officers Association said, “For too long our work has been undervalued because our members are predominantly women and people of color.” She added:
“We understand that the city has tough budget decisions to make in the years to come. But this economic downturn has had a disproportionate impact on women and people of color, and it would be immoral to persist with pay discrimination in order to balance the budget…The city can either be part of the problem or part of the solution, and support hardworking civil servants who do essential work.”
The suit further states that city probation officers have historically been white men. However, “now over 90% of the agency’s officers are non-white and 80% are women.” Because of that, “officers of color in recent years have had to take on overwhelmingly more work, with less support and less pay.” The suit goes on to state:
“When current and past pay rates for probation officers are analyzed…it shows that [the agency has] engaged in a pattern and/or practice of wage suppression of probation officers, along with disparate promotional and other employment practices that have adversely impacted women and people of color employed in the DOP.”