City Slapped With Sex Discrimination Suit

A Chicago woman wants the Chicago Fire Department's physical abilities test to be replaced

By Lisa Balde
|  Tuesday, Jul 19, 2011  |  Updated 12:45 PM CDT
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City Slapped With Sex Discrimination Suit

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Does the Chicago Fire Department's physical abilities test discriminate against women?

That's what a 27-year-old Chicago woman alleges in a class-action lawsuit filed Tuesday morning against the city.

Samantha Vasich says the test, required by the city for all job applicants before entering the fire academy, results in a pattern of sex discrimination and is unlawful because it does not relate to a firefighter's job.

“I just want a fair shot,” Vasich said in a statement. “All the women who want to protect our communities as firefighters deserve that chance. That’s the outcome I want to see from this suit.”

This isn't the first discrimination suit against the City of Chicago regarding fire department test.

In May, a federal appeals court ruled the Chicago Fire Department must hire 111 African Americans who passed a firefighters entrance exam 16 years ago. This follows a 2005 ruling by a federal judge who said the test discriminated against black applicants and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that the candidates did not wait too long to sue the city.

The city's physical abilities test that Vasich references includes such gym exercises as arm lifts, arm endurance tests and leg lifts. Vasich said she took the department's physical abilities test in January 2010.

"When I took the test, I was able to do everything," she states. "I couldn’t believe it when I got the letter from the city saying that I had failed the test. I thought it must be a mistake.”

Vasich was told by the city, she says, that she needed to contact the private consultant that facilitated the test for which parts of the test she failed. When she asked for the name of the consultant, personnel refused the information, she said.

In the lawsuit, Vasich asks that the firefighter physical abilities test be thrown out and replaced by a method "that measures capabilities that are actually related to the job."

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