Lawsuit: Fire Department Test Discriminates Against Women

CHICAGO (CBS) — A 27-year-old Chicago woman is suing the city because she says she wants to be a firefighter – and she failed a physical screening test she says is discriminatory.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Steve Miller reports, Samantha Vasich, 27, is seeking class-action status in her against the City of Chicago.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Steve Miller reports

It’s not that Vasich didn’t prepare for the physical test for people who want to be firefighters, according to her attorney, Marni Willenson.

In fact, Willenson said, Vasich hired a personal trainer, but still failed the test a year ago.

Willenson rejects the notion that Vasich is physically unqualified to be a Chicago firefighter.

“She’s in pretty good shape, and she is, and will be, fully prepared to submit herself to some fair and valid measure of the physical capabilities that a firefighter might need,” she said.

Willenson said the physical test used by the Chicago Fire Department is not related to actual firefighting, and is discriminatory.

The CFD test is composed mostly of “gym-type exercises,” such as arm lifts, leg lifts and endurance tests, according to a news release on the lawsuit. But in other cities such as New York and Los Angeles, the Candidate Physical Abilities Test consists of situations that simulate actual firefighting, involving wearing gear and a self-contained breathing apparatus, the release said.

Many more women pass that test than the CFD exam, the release claims.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court. The City of Chicago has yet to issue a response.

  • tom Sharp

    The test may or may not discriminate against women, but it surely doesn’t prohibit those with clout from becoming firemen!

  • CFLC

    Candiates seeking to be fire fighters or police officers know what the physical fitness qualifications are. The City gives you all the information on the test and what you have to do to prepare for it.What you do not know is when the city is going to call you to take the exam. When thay do call you for that portion of the exam you must be prepared, be in shape and you must pass. This is where the majority of the candiates fail.. They are not in shape when called upon to take the physical fitness portion of the exam.

  • Bill

    Take the test,then make your call,this is Chicago and Marni,you should do o.k. With Rahm! All men and women are created equal in Chicago,just some are more equal than others!One major ingredient that can’t be tested is whether or not that person has the intestinal fortitude to do the job!Everyone will know that only after your first good fire!Signed,been there,done that!

  • tunafish charlie

    you said it TOM SHARP
    I wonder if CHICAGO will ever give a fair shake.
    It’s all part of the(GOOD OL’ BOYS ) club you know…just us and not them.
    The city just paid out a HEEP of cash for doing the same thing to the brothers.
    Now that Richard D is gone and RAHM is in i think people of all back grounds-
    will have a even chance….now watch…i’ll come back to this blog and read-
    all the comments from the chicago in-bread racist…just watch


    As a retired member of the finest fire department in the country,I will tell you that those tests of strength and endurance are needed.The job does consist of numerous times that strength and stregnth alone will save your life,the life of a citizen and a life of your partner.I am sure you are in fine physical shape,but that often times does not equate to being able to pull a fully charged line down a fire and smoke filled hall or raise a 200 lb ladder, climbing to a roof,chopping a hole then pulling a roof back.dragging a lifeliess body down a hall and out of a building.Good luck but don’t demean the strength and ability to perform your job.

  • nancy

    Mike………..while I am sure you did an outstanding job and you should be thanked by everyone in Chicago for your service and I do not disagree with the arm lift, leg lifts, and endurance testing maybe they should change the test to see how well they do with the ladder and climbing that ladder with full gear on along with any other test that physicallyt relates to the job. I wonder how many who passed with flying colors on the “gym-tests” had a hard time on their first call with the ladder while in full gear and possibly having to carry someone down that ladder. Being a fireman is NOT an easy job, but anyone who can pass the tests should be accepted no matter their sex


    I was not trying to imply that a woman could not physically perform the job,i have worked with woman and men who could and indeed did perform the job well.I have also,sadly,worked with both men and woman that could not perform the tasks needed on a daily basis.My point was to stress that yes indeed physical ability is a very important part and testing physical strength is crucial.I will agree that endurance with turnout gear would be a welcomed addition to the testing process.

  • e fash

    I am a women who took the 95 test and was called to take the physical in 2005. I trained extensively for that test well in advance because I knew my s.s. # was about to come up. I ran stairs with a sand filled backpack, dragged a rope with weights through my front yard, hand peddled an upside down bike in my garage for several weeks to train. I worked full time at fedex unloading heavy packages out of trucks. I was in top shape when I took that exam and have several cfd fireman to witness it. I took that physical with relative ease. They called me in for a drug test which I passed. Two weeks later they send me a letter saying I failed the physical. I called the cfd and wrote letters. All I wanted to know was my score…which area of the test did I fail? they would not give me that courtesy. Because I did not fail. I know this because after I purchased a fundraising ticket for ald. Isaac Caruthers his office informed me that there was nothing wrong with my score. Long story short…I am not on the cfd. That is the last Dept of chicago that still practices nepotism and sexual discrimination. Thanks to this radio station I will be contacting Marni Willenson myself.

  • Danny

    Some jobs are best performed by men because they are built to do the job. Just because some tomboy woman with p*nis envy wants the job does not mean she is physically qualified. If I have to be saved from a fire, I want the strongest possible person and that will be a man. The same problem occurs in the police department…very often a male officer has to step in and save a female officer when she is trying to make an arrest.

    • e fash

      Danny …. you are an f’in idiot. I can go on and on but I’ll just leave it at that.

  • Just Axin

    Just saw this slob on the news. She’s at least 20lbs overweight and has 2 chins. You’d think they’d trot out someone who looks like she’s in shape. Oh yeah, and she looks biracial so maybe she can sue for that, too.

    • Danny

      Yes…those people think they are entitled to everything.

  • Spectator

    Bally gym tests can not gauge whether or not you can do the job. Throw on some gear on her, have her put up the ladder,etc.etc.Why not use the tests other cities are using? Why not make her perform job related tests?Could it be possible that the test is geared toward men to weed out female candidates? Discrimination? The City of Chicago FD? No way,rtight? Wrong! As for the ignorant comment on her weight, how many CFD employees are over weight and on the job? Really?

  • Spectator

    The gentleman above even stated there were emploees he worked with that could not properly do the job so obviously the test is flawed and needs to be changed!

  • Eric M

    Will this test cover men who failed the test? If it discriminates against women who failed, it discriminaites against men who failed.

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