Sex Discrimination Complaint Prompting Change in the LFD - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

1/12/04

Sex Discrimination Complaint Prompting Change in the LFD

The Lubbock Fire Department is re-evaluating it's physical entry test for rookies wanting to become a firefighter. It's doing this because another woman has stepped forward blaming the department for sex discrimination.

The complaint shows that only one female has passed the physical entry test. It is rare to find a woman on the Lubbock Fire Department. Out of 252 firefighters, four of them are women, but that wasn't the case about one month ago.

According to fire administrators, they just hired the fourth woman because of this. A sex discrimination complaint to the U.S. Equal Employment Commission. "They were saying the physical entry test was not fair," said Deputy Fire Chief Reah Cooper after that woman failed the physical entry test.

In the complaint letter, the E.E.O.C. concluded there is "no evidence presented by the department that the combat challenge is a valid measure of an individuals ability to perform as a firefighter."

"I can't say I agree with what the E.E.O.C. has stated in this complaint because we have bent over backwards to try and make this fair and equitable to everybody," said Cooper.

Last October, the department had 251 firefighters. Three were female. In the E.E.O.C.'s investigation, they found that one of the females passed the testing criteria, prior to when the Combat Challenge test was used for entry into academy. Another female passed the test when she was a male. The third female is working in the Fire Marshal's office. She was hired under the direction of the E.E.O.C., due to a sex discrimination finding.

Furthermore, the city of Lubbock acknowledges the Combat Challenge has never been passed by a female. "You can go to one end of the scale and say let's not have a physical ability test. That's not fair to the citizens of Lubbock. We want the very best and so we're trying to meet that compromise without discriminating," said Cooper.

The Lubbock Fire Department has settled with the woman who filed the grievance and she is now working as a firefighter. Meanwhile, fire administrators are reviewing their physical ability entrance exam and hope to have it in place in six months.

Fire administrators say they are reviewing physical entry tests given by fire departments across the country.

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