The city of Corpus Christi recently agreed to pay $700,000 in back wages and offer jobs to women who were denied positions as police officers based on a physical fitness test to settle a discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
The fitness test, used by the Corpus Christi Police Department (CCPD) since at least 2005, consisted of four timed events: push-ups, sit-ups, a 300-meter run, and a 1-mile run. Applicants who failed to meet a minimum score in any event were disqualified from applying for entry-level police officer jobs.
According to court documents, 27 of 140 female applicants, roughly 19 percent, passed the fitness test between 2005 and 2009. During the same period, 572 of 901 male applicants, or 63 percent, passed the test. In 2011, the city changed the cutoff scores for the events, which improved the passing rate among women to 33 percent but also raised the passing rate among men to 82 percent. In both cases, the ratio of women passing to men fell far below the 80 percent measure used to show equal treatment under Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The DOJ found that the fitness test was not job-related and was not necessary for the department’s operations. The department determined that based on the test, the CCPD unfairly disqualified 59 women from applying for officer positions between 2005 and 2011.
The settlement requires the city to provide a $700,000 fund to be distributed among all women who failed the fitness test between 2005 and 2011. In addition, the city has agreed to stop using the physical fitness test; develop a new selection procedure that does not have a disparate impact on women; and hire 18 women out of the eligible claimants, with retroactive seniority and benefits, within two hiring cycles.