The Chicago Fire Department’s hiring process has been the subject of a number of discrimination lawsuits over the years. Most recently, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals awarded $30 million in damages to 111 African-American firefighter applicants who had filed a lawsuit over entrance exams they took in 1995. The case went to the US Supreme Court previously over the EEOC 300 day rule limitations period.
In 2008, five women who failed the paramedic physical ability test sued the city. The case is still pending in Federal court.
Now, a 27 year old female applicant who had passed the written test but failed the physical abilities test, is suing CFD alleging that the test discriminates against women. Samantha Vasich alleges the PAT creates a disparate impact on women candidates by unlawfully screening them out at a higher rate than male candidates, without a legitimate basis.
Vasich passed the written test in 2006, and in 2009 took the physical ability test, which had four components: arm lift, arm endurance, leg lift and hose drag/high rise pack carry. Vasich rigorously prepared for the test hiring a personal trainer to assist her. She took the test in January, 2010, and claims she completed all of the requirements. However in February, 2010 Vasich was informed that she was not selected because she had not passed in the PAT.
The lawsuit seeks class action status for similarly situated women who passed the CFD written exam but failed the physical abilities test. The lawsuit seeks retroactive seniority and benefits to the date on which they would have been hired, back pay and other damages.
The complaint alleges: “There is no empirical data demonstrating that the PAT is predictive of or significantly correlated with important elements of job performance. The individual physical abilities tested by the PAT have not been proven to be underlying factors for performing essential or critical physical functions of the job of firefighter (that is, the PAT does not have demonstrated construct validity).”
Here is a copy of the complaint. Vasich v Chicago