Court: Chicago Fire Dept. paramedic test discriminates against women

The unanimous ruling questioned the relevance of certain aspects of the required physical performance test


By EMS1 Staff

CHICAGO — A federal appeals court ruled Monday in favor of five female paramedics who filed a lawsuit alleging the Chicago Fire Department’s physical performance test discriminated against women. 

The initial Ernst v. City of Chicago 2014 and 2015 ruling stated the test did not discriminate against female applicants, reported the Chicago Sun Times. However, the appeals court overturned that decision. 

“The physical entrance exam … risks cementing unfairness into Chicago’s job-application process,” wrote the court. 

Between 2000 and 2009, 800 men and 300 women took the physical exam; the passing rate for men was 98 percent, and that of women was 60 percent. This rate, the lawsuit argued, amounted to discrimination of female applicants. 

The unanimous decision by the three-judge panel challenged the relevance of some aspects of the test — which included a timed step test and a leg strength test — when hiring a paramedic.

“We’re overjoyed. Our clients have been stoic in waiting for the decision. We were very hopeful and it’s really a historic victory,” Attorney Marni Willenson said. 

“After so long, I’m feeling very happy, elated,” plaintiff and 24-year veteran paramedic Stacy Ernst said. “It’s important that women can do this type of job. Patients and the community in general can benefit from having women in roles as paramedics out there delivering lifesaving care.”

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