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Lawsuit: Fire Department Test Discriminates Against Women

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Chicago Fire Department

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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.

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