The NYPD and city recently agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit with thousands of 911 operators.
In 2013, a lawsuit was filed by NYPD 911 operators against the city and the NYPD over allegations that they were being forced to work “excessive overtime hours and had their sick leave canceled.” Additionally, the operators claimed they were treated unfairly by police department commanders. Now, six years later, the city has agreed to a settlement. Earlier this week, the city of New York “agreed to pay $560,000 to 2,800 911 operators,” ending the class-action lawsuit.
When commenting on the recent settlement, Waleska Layes, one of the 911 operators who has since retired, said, “I mean you would go work and you did not know when you were coming back home.” Lawyers representing the operators chimed in and said the suit wasn’t filed for the money. Instead, it was “about stipulating that the department can’t force operators to pressure workers into excessive overtime and arbitrarily revoke sick leave for all employees.”
One of the attorneys, Sam Maduegbuna said, “They are under court supervision for 30 months, whereby if the conditions continue and it is systemic, we can come back to the judge.”
Many of the operators who participated in the lawsuit were primarily Latino or African American women. According to them, they were rarely “recognized for their lifesaving work as the first line of defense for New Yorkers in need of help.” The suit claimed their employers and supervisors, “who are armed NYPD officers, were verbally abusive and threatened their jobs if they took sick days and didn’t work overtime.” To make matters worse, “their schedules were changed without notice.” Layes said:
“Sometimes, they would send us home at three or four o’clock in the morning. We females going home three or four o’clock in the morning to take the train, the bus — it’s dangerous.”
When the suit was first filed in 2013, the city pushed back against the allegations and claimed “dozens of operators would call out sick or request emergency family medical leave on holidays, which resulted in the need for others to work overtime.” At the time, lawyers representing the operators countered and said “the city had under staffing issues and this settlement impacts all New Yorkers.” Attorney William Cowles said:
“It ensures that the people taking your 911 calls are rested, that they are alert, that they are ready to help and that benefits everybody. Because no one wants an emergency where you are calling in somewhere and someone has been working for 16 hours.”
In addition to suing the city and NYPD, “the operators sued their union.” In turn, the union agreed to pay a small settlement and agreed to better representation for the operators.