Excerpts from the ChicagoSunTimes.com:
Three years ago, Chicago spent nearly $2 million — and $1.7 million more in legal fees — to compensate dozens of women denied firefighter jobs because of a discriminatory test of upper body strength that city hall has now scrapped.
Now, a dozen women who wanted desperately to become paramedics are accusing the Chicago Fire Department of devising two new physical agility tests that are equally biased against women.
One test requires candidates to go up six flights of stairs with a 250-pound dummy within eight minutes. The other requires candidates to step onto and off of an 18-inch-high box to the beat of a metronome for two minutes without missing a beat while holding 25-pound weights in each hand.
The lawsuit filed Friday in federal court alleges that the two tests were invented to eliminate women in the Chicago Fire Department where discrimination against women is stubborn and purposeful.
The women are seeking back pay and other measures to compensate for the discrimination they have suffered.
Jamie Snevely, 33, said she was terminated on the day in September 2014 that she was scheduled to graduate from the fire academy. The termination was subsequently rescinded and Snevely and four other women were given six additional weeks to train and re-test. She said she was stopped during the re-test and told she was done.
She added, “It was women they did not want for the most part. Five out of the seven of us women in Alpha class got fired and the other two were cheated through. I watched instructors carry the chairs for them. I literally watched one of the instructors stop his stopwatch and give it to her. She had relatives and connections into the fire department.”
[An attorney] noted that two of the dozen plaintiffs heard Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago say that the stair test was “not realistic.”
City Law Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey said: “We cannot comment on the pending litigation, however, the Fire Department does not condone discrimination of any kind, and no longer uses the physical abilities tests that are included in this suit.”
In late September, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of female paramedics in striking down a physical performance test used by the city to hire paramedics for over a decade.
The decision in the sex discrimination lawsuit, Ernst v. City of Chicago, overturned federal district court verdicts in 2014 and 2015 finding the city’s use of the test did not discriminate against female applicants.
“The physical entrance exam … risks cementing unfairness into Chicago’s job-application process,” the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals said in siding with the paramedics.
The fire department has been mired in litigation over racially and sexually discriminatory hiring practices for decades.