UPOA accuses city of discrimination, demands payroll records

Stephon Johnson | 9/13/2018, 2:35 p.m.
The union representing probation officers has demanded that the city hand over payroll records and has accused officials of discrimination
Payroll Nick Youngson

The union representing probation officers has demanded that the city hand over payroll records and has accused officials of discrimination.

In an Article 78 petition filed in New York State Supreme Court, the United Probation Officers Association alleged that the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, which is responsible for maintaining records on salary information on city employees, has stonewalled the union and denied multiple Freedom of Information Law requests this year. The union, which represents 700 probation professionals, wants the state Supreme Court to force City Hall to turn over salary information on employees hired in certain position since January 2009. The court filing notes that the Department of Probation is the most diverse branch of law enforcement in the city.

Union lawyers filed the petition in court Friday.

Yetta Kurland, of The Kurland Group, attorneys for UPOA, said in a statement that knowledge of salaries is necessary for her clients to know how the city views their worth.

“This information is critical not only for these hard-working union members who deserve to be treated equally, but for the city, which is legally required to properly maintain this information to avoid the pitfall of discrimination, which results in women and people of color of being undervalued and underpaid,” stated Kurland. “The city’s reasons for denying this data are unsupported by law and fly in the face of the city’s claims of being an equal opportunity employer. It’s clear that the city is once again going out of its way to avoid production of this data and is shirking the law. So we must ask: what is the city hiding, and why?”

The UPOA represents 700 employees with multiple probation officer positions throughout the city, including probation officer trainees, probation officers and supervising

probation officers. UPOA officials note its membership is largely nonwhite, female and paid less than those in comparable positions in other city agencies and in neighboring counties, such as Westchester, Rockland, Nassau and Suffolk. Probation officers in those counties are also largely nonwhite and have the same educational requirements and experiences and follow similar state mandates.

This petition isn’t new ground for Kurland. In May, the Uniformed Officers Local 3621 filed a class-action lawsuit against the FDNY and the City of New York accusing them of continual discrimination against nonwhite and female uniformed public servants in promotions and raises. Kurland, an attorney for Local 3621, said that the absence of an unbiased process for merit-based promotions contributes to institutional problems in the EMS.

Dalvanie Powel, president of the UPOA, said in a statement that the city’s time for playing games is over.

“These women and men are true public servants who build a safer New York, who give people opportunities to turn around their lives and stay out of the justice system,” said Powell. “But 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.”

In an interview, Powell didn’t hold back her feelings about the city’s treatment of her constituents.

“They’re not happy,” Powell said. “You have to have a bachelor’s degree and/or a master’s and they start us at $42,000. It’s insulting. We never reach our top salaries. You know what’s ironic? They just announced [a deadline extension] for the probation officer exam.”

Powell said that Sept. 28 will mark her 31st year as a probation officer. She is now a supervisor and she still hasn’t reached top salary.

“It’s like chasing a carrot,” explained Powell. “We can’t even retain our officers, so now they’re doing a bunch of hiring, but we lost over 10 percent of our members in the past year and a half because of the salaries.”

Attempts to contact city officials and DCAS in particular went unanswered.