The U.S. Department of Justice reached a $2.2 million settlement agreement with Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania State Police over a 2014 claim that the state police use of physical tests as part of the entry-level hiring process for state troopers resulted in a pattern or practice of employment discrimination against women.
In the suit, the Justice Department argued the use of the tests to screen and select applicants for the entry-level positions resulted in a much greater percentage of male applicants than female applicants passing the physical fitness tests going back to 2003.
As a result, the state police had failed to hire dozens of women for entry-level trooper positions on an equal basis with men, the Justice Department argued in the suit, saying this amounted to a pattern of employment discrimination against women, violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“Employers cannot impose selection criteria that unfairly screen out qualified female applicants,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela S. Karlan of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a press release Tuesday. “When the Pennsylvania State Police use a physical fitness test as part of the process for choosing state troopers, they must ensure that the test complies with federal law. This settlement agreement reflects the Civil Rights Division’s continued commitment to removing artificial barriers that prevent women from becoming law enforcement officers.”
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, still subject to court approval, the Pennsylvania State Police will pay $2.2 million into a settlement fund that will be used to compensate those women who were harmed by the employment practices, according to Justice Department officials.
The agreement also requires the Pennsylvania State Police to offer priority hiring relief, with retroactive seniority, for up to 65 women for entry-level state trooper jobs. All priority hiring candidates must meet the employer’s lawful selection criteria, including the successful passing of any physical fitness test that meets the requirements of Title VII, justice department officials say.
In a joint filing Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, the parties moved for a court order provisionally approving the terms of the settlement agreement.
The motion also asks the court to schedule a fairness hearing to provide an opportunity for individuals potentially affected by the proposed agreement to provide comments on the terms of the settlement.
Pennsylvania State Police officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
Soon after the suit was filed in 2014, state police officials defended their entry-testing standards, saying lowering the physical fitness standards for applicants would be insulting to those men and women who already strove to achieve those standards, and it would endanger current and future troopers.
The fitness test in question required candidates to be able to reach a standard of:
- 14-inch vertical jump in three attempts,
- Agility run in 23.5 seconds in two attempts,
- A 300-meter run in 77 seconds,
- 13 push-ups,
- And a 1.5-mile run in 17 minutes and 48 seconds.
From 2003 to 2008, 94 percent of male applicants passed the fitness test, while 71 percent of female applicants passed. Under a similar test administered in 2009 through 2012, 98 percent of male applicants passed, while 72 percent of female applicants passed, according to the suit.