By Chris Stigall
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Chris Stigall spoke with Cornell University Legal Professor and Contributor at Legal Insurrection, William Jacobson, about the Department of Justice suing the Pennsylvania State Police over their required physical fitness test for officers, who claim it is biased against women.
Jacobson did not seem to think the test was overly strenuous but said a court will have to decide if it was designed for women to fail.
“These standards, at least according the complaint, have been in effect, at least since 2003. Are the standards reasonable and reasonably related to the job? They’re not very high standards. It’s really not a very strenuous list of things that are part of the physical requirement. It says push ups, vertical jump and one and a half mile run. At least superficially, those would all seem to be reasonably related to what, at least an entry level, somebody who’s older, who knows, but certainly an entry level state trooper should have some level of physical fitness that would be related to the job. Is this essentially a ruse to cause women to fail or is this something reasonably related to the job and it just so happens that you have different results for the test?”
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He speculated that there could possibly be a political motivation behind challenging the legitimacy of the test.
“It does strike me as a little strange. This is not a test where a huge percentage of women fail. It’s not like they said, ‘you’ve got to be able to bench press 200 pounds,’ or something like that. Almost three quarters of women pass this test. A higher percentage of men do, but it’s not the sort of thing where if they devise the test and very few women could pass it.”
Jacobson does not see this case setting any kind of legal precedent and expects it to be settled before too long.
“I don’t think there’s any big legal issue here. I think it’s going to be a factual issue of whether these standards are reasonably related to the job or whether they are intended to be or, as a matter of fact, simply are a way of keeping women off the force. At least on the face of the complaint, they don’t seem to have made a compelling case. Of course, they’ll be evidence and they’ll be expert witnesses and the state police will spend a lot of money fighting it and what typically happens with these things is some point along the road is the state police, although they’re saying they won’t do it now, will end up modifying the test and it will end up getting settled. That’s how most of these things go.”