HSPRD Celebrates Women’s History Month

HSPRD celebrates women’s history month by recognizing its five courageous clients in the Ernst v. City of Chicago case. In Ernst, the City of Chicago used discriminatory physical abilities tests to reject five qualified women who sought to work as Chicago Fire Department (CFD) paramedics. The arbitrary physical abilities test had a negligible effect on men: 98 percent of the male applicants passed. By contrast, 40 percent of the women failed the test and, as a result, were denied the highly desirable jobs with CFD. In a unanimous opinion, the Federal Court of Appeals in Chicago rejected the City’s attempts to defend the discriminatory test. Casting aside the City’s assertions that the test was necessary, the Court of Appeals held that the test did not measure job skills, that there was no evidence that differences in scores would be reflected in differences in job performance, and that that was “fatal to Chicago’s case.” The Court emphasized that “difference[s] in score[s] must correlate with a difference in job performance.” Between 2000 and 2009, nearly 1,100 applicants for paramedic positions were required to take the discriminatory test that the court eventually struck down. Thanks to the five women who challenged the test, the City abandoned the discriminatory pre-hire test and replaced it with one that was far more reasonable. The five women recovered millions in back pay and several now work as Chicago paramedics. HSPRD was proud to represent the Ernst plaintiffs in this historical lawsuit and salute them for standing up for fair hiring practices.

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