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Women Who Failed 2006 Firefighter Test Get A Second Chance

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CHICAGO (CBS) – More than 100 women are getting a second chance at becoming Chicago firefighters, after the city settled a lawsuit with them over the weekend.

WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports the women had sued the city, alleging the physical fitness exam they failed in 2006 was discriminatory.

At the time, 140 women had applied to become firefighters, but failed the physical fitness test.

“They’re getting a second chance. We fought very hard for this, and we think the city really did the right thing,” said attorney Marni Willenson, who represented the women in the lawsuit.

Willenson said the women who failed claimed the requirements were arbitrary and discriminatory.

“To a woman, every person that I’ve talked to that’s taken it believed she passed. She could go in and she could do absolutely everything on the test, and then three weeks later gets a letter saying they failed,” she said. “No score, no reason, no explanation, just truly unfair.”

Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford acknowledged there were problems with the exam.

“The test showed that you could work at a certain level. The question is was what they were testing what you needed to be able to do in order to be a firefighter?” he said. “If you can do the job, we want you to come and try and get the job.”

Langford said the new test is a national standard, and should accurately gauge who is qualified and who isn’t.

“There is not a sign on a fire that says ‘men here, women here.’ There aren’t two entrances to a fire. Everybody that goes into a fire must be able to do the job. That’s all we’re trying to do,” he said.

Renee Williams was thrilled to have a chance to reapply.

“I’m nervous, but I’m excited, because I think that it’s good,” she said. “I was talking to someone the other day, and they was like, ‘I’ve never seen a woman firefighter.’ I think it would be a good opportunity that we are allowed to do it again, because we can protect people too.”

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