U.S. claims Pa. State Police fitness tests discriminate against women

Pennsylvania State Police vehicle

A Pennsylvania State Police car. (Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo)

The federal government is suing Pennsylvania State Police for alleged workplace discrimination.

In a 10-page complaint filed Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice maintains that not enough women are passing the mandatory physical fitness test for would-be troopers.



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Between 2003 and 2012, more than 90 percent of men successfully completed the “physical readiness” section of the application process.

During the same period, only about 70 percent of women were able to do the same.

State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan said Wednesday that he’s “extremely disappointed” by the complaint and will fight it “to the end.”

“To lower the fitness standards for applicants would be an insult to those men and women who have already achieved this position,” said Noonan in a statement. “And, more importantly, it would endanger current and future troopers, the residents of Pennsylvania and all of the individuals served by the distinguished men and women of the Pennsylvania State Police.”

The test includes pushups, a vertical jump and a trio of running exercises.

Applicants must run a mile-and-half in 17 minutes and 48 seconds, do 13 pushups and jump 14 inches, among other things.

Attorney Alice Ballard, who specializes in employment litigation, said the complaint will center on what’s known as business necessity.

“If [the Commonwealth] can prove that to be a successful trooper, you have to be able to run a mile and a half or whatever these criteria are, then they will win,” said Ballard.

“If they can’t prove that, if they can’t prove running that far, that fast is an essential function of the job, if troopers don’t actually have to do that, and if most of the troopers can’t do that, then they’ll lose.”

Noonan, for his part, said the test doesn’t require people to be “Olympic athletes.”

It will likely take years for the case to be settled.

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