Posts Tagged 1995 firefighters entrance exam in Chicago

Chicago Fire Department news

Excerpts from

Five years ago, the city agreed to hire 111 African-American firefighters bypassed by the city’s discriminatory handling of a 1995 firefighters entrance exam.

Although 13 of those black firefighters were women, the city insisted on using a controversial and now-abolished test of upper-body strength that was being challenged in federal court for discriminating against women.

Now, Chicago taxpayers are paying a $3.8 million price for that decision in the form of back pension payments, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

Monday, the Chicago City Council’s Finance Committee is expected to approve the pension payment to cover both the employee and employer contribution to the pension funds dating all the way back to June 1, 1999.

Marni Willenson, an attorney representing the women, said the decision to use the disputed physical fitness test ultimately cost taxpayers 3.5 years worth of back pension payments. Had the city heeded Willenson’s warning to scrap the test, the 12 black women–minus one woman who didn’t make it for reasons unrelated to the fitness test–would have been hired in March 2012 along with their male counterparts. Instead, the women were discriminated against and forced to wait until November, 2015 to enter the fire academy.

Under Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago resolved a bitter legal battle the mayor inherited from former Mayor Richard M. Daley stemming from the city’s discriminatory handling of the 1995 firefighters entrance exam.

The city agreed to hire the 111 bypassed African-American firefighters and borrow the $78.4 million needed to compensate thousands more who never got that chance.

Back pay alone for the 5,850 people who did not get jobs totaled $59.7 million. Of that money, $51.4 million was distributed to individuals. The remaining $8.3 million was deposited in the firefighters pension fund as the employees’contribution for those ultimately hired.

The city was also responsible for contributing another $18.7 million for its share of pension liability for the newly hired firefighters.

Three years ago, Chicago taxpayers spent nearly $2 million — and $1.7 million more in legal fees — to compensate dozens of women denied firefighter jobs because of now-scrapped physical test of upper-body strength.

Last month, a dozen women who wanted to become paramedics accused the Chicago Fire Department of devising two new physical agility tests that are equally biased against women.

The latest in a string of lawsuits filed in federal court alleged the two tests were invented to eliminate women in a Chicago Fire Department where discrimination against women is stubborn and purposeful.

thanks Dan

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African American Firefighter and Paramedic League of Chicago calls for resignations (more)

Excerpts from

At least 20 of the 111 black firefighters hired by the Chicago Fire Department after a marathon discrimination lawsuit had not been medically cleared by a department physician before starting work and two of them suffered serious medical events and died while off-duty, the city’s inspector general disclosed Tuesday.

Under Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago resolved a bitter legal battle the mayor inherited from former Mayor Richard M. Daley stemming from the city’s discriminatory handling of a 1995 firefighters entrance exam, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting. The city agreed to hire 111 bypassed African-American firefighters and borrow the $78.4 million needed to compensate nearly 6,000 African-Americans who never got that chance.

Two weeks ago, Emanuel proudly pointed to that legal resolution as he fended off demands by an organization of African-American firefighters calling for the dismissal of Chicago Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago and a federal investigation into what the group says are racist policies at the fire department.“We settled that. Paid out somewhere around $60 million to $75 million to the individuals. Then, produced the class for [111] individuals to fulfill their dreams of becoming Chicago firefighters,” the mayor said.

On Tuesday, Inspector General Joe Ferguson added a new chapter to the long-running legal saga.

In his quarterly report, Ferguson disclosed he had conducted an investigation that revealed that at least 20 firefighters in the so-called Lewis class of African-American firefighters had not been medically cleared by a Chicago Fire Department physician before starting duty, contrary to national standards and the city’s own established practice.

“Two of the 20 improperly-cleared members suffered serious medical events while off-duty and died not long after they began their full duties, highlighting the importance of a CFD physician to provide medical clearance for all new firefighters,” Ferguson wrote.

“OIG strongly urged that CFD consider immediate action to assure that the remaining 18 members who had not been medically cleared by a CFD physician were, in fact, medically fit for duty. OIG further urged that CFD devise and implement a formal medical clearance policy consistent with national standards to assure that similar deviations did not occur in the future.”

The Chicago Fire Department responded to the inspector general’s findings by claiming that all 111 black firefighters had been medically examined by an outside vendor that reviewed the candidates’ medical history and conducted a physical exam and blood tests. The fire department’s own doctors then conducted an initial review of the outside vendor’s files to either clear the candidate or order additional steps, including follow-up exams by the candidate’s personal physician or retesting if initial blood tests showed anomalous results.

But, the fire department acknowledged that department physicians fell behind in the subsequent review of applicant files aimed at making certain those additional steps were taken.

“CFD further [acknowledged] that, operating on the advice of counsel and in order to ensure compliance with a court-imposed hiring deadline, it decided to have administrative personnel conduct a limited and administrative follow-up review of the medical files of 53 yet to be cleared candidates,” Ferguson wrote.

Those administrators ultimately cleared 19 of 53 candidates and rejected 34 others whose documentation was incomplete. The fire department subsequently acknowledged that a twentieth candidate may have been administratively cleared.

In his report, Ferguson disclosed that a current and former medical director for the Chicago Fire Department told investigators that administrative personnel performing the document check lacked the medical judgment necessary to evaluate whether candidates met the required medical standards for the rigorous job of being a firefighter.

National standards clearly state that when medical evaluations are conducted by a doctor or medical provider other than a fire epartment’s own physician, the evaluation must be reviewed and approved by the fire department’s own doctors.

After the first of the two cleared firefighters died, the CFD hired an outside doctor with particular experience with fire service requirements to conduct a more thorough review of the medical files of the 19 other candidates administratively cleared.

“Soon after, a second of the 19 administratively-cleared candidates died while off-duty. Both of the firefighters who died were among the six candidates who the outside doctor identified as having medical conditions warranting further inquiry, which CFD has acknowledged,” the inspector general’s report states.

Three of the four surviving administratively-cleared firefighters for whom the outside physician recommended additional screening later experienced a medical issue unrelated to the condition of concern, Ferguson disclosed.

The Chicago Fire Department’s medical staff subsequently cleared all three as fully-fit to return to duty after a wellness exam that did not include blood tests and other diagnostic components that are part of a candidate’s screening process.  The fourth firefighter had no occasion to be evaluated by department physicians.

“CFD stated that it had discussed performing a medical exam for all the administratively-cleared firefighters and was willing to pursue such examinations, but was advised by outside counsel that doing so would be improper and potentially violate” the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA),” Ferguson wrote.

Going forward, CFD noted that its current medical director ‘has developed detailed internal operating procedures that follow National Fire Protection Association standards, which the department is now following. The Chicago Fire Department’s Medical Division Handbook dated June, 2015  states that a CFD physician must make a final medical clearance determination on applicants.

thanks Dan

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