The city of Chicago will have to instate four women as paramedics because the Chicago Fire Department used a physical test that was biased against women, a federal court ruled.
A fifth female plaintiff will instead get front pay through 2025 because she moved out of state and shouldn’t “be required to uproot her life to take a job that she was wrongfully denied more than a decade ago,” the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois said Dec. 21.
The four plaintiffs who will be instated are also entitled to back pay, but not front pay, the court said.
All five women failed the CFD’s physical skills test in 2004, though they’d each been previously employed as paramedics with other emergency medical service providers. The test evaluates an applicants abilities to perform certain paramedic duties such as moving a stretcher in and out of an ambulance.
But the test was “neither reliable nor validated under federal law” and was biased against women applicants, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit said in 2016.
On remand, the parties stipulated that but for the test, the women would have been hired. The women, led by Stacy Ernst, and the city disagreed over what damages should apply and how much.
The court’s discussion of damages takes up the bulk of its latest 60-page opinion.
Ernst and her co-plaintiffs calculate their backpay at $4.8 million, about double what the city calculates, according to the court’s opinion.
The parties have been ordered to submit proposed orders, but the court ruled that the plaintiffs are entitled to overtime pay, supplemental back pay, driver pay, and duty availability pay, and that they each satisfied their duty to mitigate damages.
Ernst was represented by Goldstein, Borgen, Dardarian & Ho. The city of Chicago was represented by its law department and Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP.
The case is Ernst v. City of Chicago, 2018 BL 476191, N.D. Ill., No. 08 C 4370, 12/21/18.
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