NEW YORK (CBSNewYork)–A big victory for city nurses comes as New York City has agreed to pay more than $20 million to nurses and midwives who said their work was not recognized as “physically taxing” as other city workers like plumbers, who are mostly male.

They transport patients, pull equipment and face potential exposure to disease and other hazards daily.

For years, the city refused to consider the job of being a nurse as tough and risky as being a bricklayer or window washer.

“I think they do a lot more physical work than people expect they do,” a woman said.

“All their jobs are the same, it’s important,” a man said.

As a result nurses, who are mostly female, were not allowed to retire with full pensions as early as age 50–should they need to, like their male counterparts in other professions.

“Equal pay for equal work has been totally ignored for years,” said registered nurse Anne Bove.

Bove just retired from Bellvue after nearly 40 years. She says the physical requirements needed to care for patients in public hospitals exposes nurses to rates of injury, illness and physical strain that are among the highest of all job titles.

“You got a nurse who weighs about 120 pounds, turning and positioning somebody who weighs 200 pounds and considering staffing levels (sic) that puts that back at strain,” said Bove.

In July, 2008, Bove along with three of her colleagues filed a formal charge with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging the City of New York discriminated against them on the basis of sex because registered nurse and midwife titles were not on the “physically taxing” list.

Today, the city agreed to pay more than $20 million to nearly 2,000 working and retired nurses who would have been able to retire sooner and collect their full pensions if their jobs were actually listed as “physically taxing.”

This settlement covered workers up until 2012.

Since then, the city eliminated the “physically taxing” category completely.

Now nobody is eligible for early retirement due to work load, except on case by case basis.

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