Chicago Settles Sex Discrimination Suit Over Abilities Test


A settlement has been announced in the 2011 gender discrimination case involving the Chicago Fire Department.

The suit, Vasich v. City of Chicago, alleged that the department’s physical abilities test unlawfully discriminated against women because it had a disparate impact on women candidates and was not sufficiently job related.

The lead plaintiff, Samantha Vasich, claims she rigorously prepared for the test, including hiring a personal trainer to assist her, to no avail. The class action suit was filed in federal court.

Attorney Marni Willenson, who represents the plaintiffs, said that under the settlement 138 women who previously failed the physical abilities test will be allowed to reapply or receive a portion of a $2 million payment.

As part of the settlement the city has agreed to adopt the Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT), developed by the IAFF.

Despite the fact that the settlement still must be approved by the city council and the judge, the women have been informed that may reapply beginning Monday, May 6, 2013

It is unclear from the news reports whether this settlement will resolve the 2012 suit Godfrey vs. City of Chicago. That suit was brought by twenty African-American female firefighters who where granted a preference under the Lewis v. City of Chicago (race discrimination) settlement, but failed the physical abilities test. All twenty Godfrey plaintiffs are plaintiffs in the Vasich case.

More on the Vasich case.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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