By NATHAN DUKE
A Forest Hills-based union that represents hundreds of probation officers has filed a lawsuit against the city alleging pay discrimination.
The United Probation Officers Association (UPOA), which represents 700 probation officers across New York City, filed a suit with the state’s Supreme Court to demand that the city’s Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) turn over records detailing salary information on city probation officers dating back to 2009.
The union alleges that the DCAS—which is responsible for maintaining these data—has repeatedly denied Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests to disclose the salaries.
UPOA officials noted that its membership is largely non-white women, who are paid significantly less than those in comparable posts at other city agencies; and significantly less than probation officers in nearby counties such as Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk. The union said that the officers it represents must meet the same educational and experience requirements as their better-paid counterparts.
“Sadly, the city of New York is clearly showing that it is not committed to supporting our ranks and is ignoring the transparency one would expect from our government leaders,” said Dalvanie Powell, the UPOA’s president. “We have followed the proper channels to shine a light on a longstanding pay disparity that treats our members like second-class public servants and, unfortunately, the city’s actions once again illustrate its cold-hearted approach to those seeking accountability.”
The DCAS declined to comment.
According to the court filing, the city’s Department of Probation is the most diverse branch of law enforcement in the five boroughs, and has more people of color and women than any other law enforcement workforce.
“The pay for these members is significantly lower than other similarly situated employees of the city of New York in majority white and male titles,” according to the court filing.
Yetta Kurland, an attorney for the UPOA, said that the city cited privacy concerns as its reason for denying the union’s FOIL requests.
“It’s really kind of a ridiculous claim—but in essence, when an employee comes to work for New York, they fill out a form that asks them to involuntarily disclose their race and gender to ensure equal employment,” Kurland said. “In boilerplate language, it says that their answers will not be disclosed. But if it’s FOILed, it can be disclosed. The city is claiming that by telling the union the race and gender of its members, it would be violating its members’ privacy. It’s an argument that has not been persuasive in the past. It seems like the city is not wanting to provide the information because it begs the question of why the city is not turning over information that would remedy the problem of pay disparity in the city workforce.”
Kurland said she did not believe that knowing city employees’ race or gender would be a violation of their privacy. She added that individuals voluntarily offer that data, specifically to protect them from pay disparity.
“Furthermore, there are ways to anonymize members’ names, so you’d just be giving information on race and gender, so that it could be analyzed where and how pay disparity occurs,” she added.
Kurland said that the union would require city data to determine which posts at other agencies paid more than the amount probation officers earn. She also did not know how much higher the salaries of workers in comparable positions at other agencies were as compared to those of probation officers.
Kurland noted that the union was notified about pay disparities by probation workers.
“We were getting complaints from members,” she said. “They reviewed information in terms of pay that they have. Union membership pays attention to what members are paid compared to others.”
According to data provided by the UPOA, probation assistants are hired—as of June 28, 2016—at $25,781 per year, and the maximum amount they can earn is $36,330. Probation officers are hired at $42,759, and can earn a maximum of $71,197. A probation officer trainee is hired at $38,133 and maxes out at $51,381. Senior probation officers are hired at $47,650 and can earn a maximum of $77,626, while a supervising probation officer starts at $57,042 and maxes out at $85,193.
“We’d like to see the city working with us to remedy this problem,” Kurland said. “The statistical data speaks for itself. We’d like to review the information, so we can have accurate information to resolve the problem.”