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Aldermen Back $2M Settlement For Discriminatory Firefighter Exam

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Aldermen have given preliminary approval of a $2 million settlement for women who failed a physical fitness test to become Chicago firefighters, saying the test requirements discriminated against them.

WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports more than 180 women passed the written test in 2006, but later failed the physical exam, and about 140 of them later sued the city, claiming the requirements were arbitrary and discriminatory.

The $1.98 settlement will be divided among 50 women who are now beyond the Fire Department’s mandatory age limit of 38 to take the new test, as well as any other women who no longer want jobs as firefighters, or who are not granted jobs after taking a new test.

The women contended the old physical exam focused on brute strength, not skills required for firefighting and rescue operations.

City Corporation Counsel Steve Patton said the city has since scrapped that test, and given some of those women a chance to take a better one, which matches federal standards.

“By offering to let the class members take this alternative test, and have another shot at becoming hired, we eliminated future damages,” he said.

The women began taking the new physical exam in May. It was unclear how many passed that test.

Also Friday, the Finance Committee backed $12.3 million in settlement payments to end two lawsuits filed by alleged victims of police torture at the hands of disgraced Police Cmdr. Jon Burge and his detectives.

Ronald Kitchen and Marvin Reeves both spent more than 20 years in prison for murders they didn’t commit. Now, each will receive $6.15 million dollars in compensation.

The settlement will also keep former Mayor Richard M. Daley from having to testify.

Kitchen and Reeves claimed they were beaten so badly under Burge that they confessed to the 1988 murders of five people, even though they were innocent. Both have since been cleared, and were provided certificates of innocence after they were released from prison in 2009.

Burge is serving a four year sentence in federal prison for perjury and obstruction of justice for lying about the torture of criminal suspects in the 1970s and 1980s.

Daley, who was the Cook County State’s Attorney when Burge and Area Two detectives allegedly tortured scores of black suspects, has strongly denied that he looked the other way, and ignored torture allegations.