Welfare reform workers protected by civil rights laws.

New York City has just settled a hard-fought battle against discrimination claims brought by welfare workers.

The City of New York has settled a lawsuit brought against it by the federal government alleging that the city violated the federal civil rights laws against employment discrimination by harassing women in the city's welfare-to-work program. The women alleged that supervisors at city agencies had harassed three women referred to those agencies as part of the city's Work Experience Program (WEP). The WEP is the program by which the city seeks to comply with the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, the federal welfare reform statute.New York City had sought to dismiss the government's complaint, arguing that because they were welfare recipients, the women were not "employees" protected by the federal civil rights laws from unlawful employment discrimination. Earlier this month, the Second Circuit ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, concluding that the women were employees entitled to the protection of the federal civil rights laws.Following this ruling, the City settled with the Plaintiffs, agreeing to monetary payouts to each of them. It also agreed to change its policies with regard to WEP employees.

Here is the New York Times article (subscription required).