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Ernst v. City of Chicago
United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
837 F.3d 788 (2016)
Stacy Ernst (plaintiff) was an experienced paramedic. Ernst applied to be a paramedic with the Chicago Fire Department (CFD). The CFD declined to hire Ernst because she failed the physical-skills exam given by the City of Chicago (defendant). The exam was created by Deborah Gebhardt, who had conducted a validity study to determine the physical skills appropriate for inclusion in the exam. Gebhardt conducted the study using volunteers and tested three skills: a stair climb, arm endurance, and a leg lift. Gebhardt sought to correlate each skill with an on-the-job task (work samples): the lift-and-carry, stair-chair push, and stretcher lift. To establish the work samples, Gebhardt asked paramedics about physical situations they found themselves in on the job. Gebhardt acknowledged that her volunteers tested better than paramedics normally test. Between 2000 and 2009, 98 percent of men and 60 percent of women passed the exam. Ernst sued the city for gender discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The city acknowledged that the exam had a disparate impact on women but argued based on Gebhardt’s validity study that the exam was job-related and consistent with the CFD’s business necessity. The district court ruled against Ernst. Ernst appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Manion, J.)
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