A fitness test given to Colorado Springs, CO, police officers discriminated against women and violated civil rights laws, a federal judge ruled Wednesday in a two-year lawsuit.

The test “shamed and ostracized” the 12 plaintiffs – many of them decorated officers with decades of service – while providing “meaningless” results, ruled U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch.

Performing poorly on the mandatory test left officers at risk of losing their jobs, despite the benchmark scores being “arbitrary” and the evaluation having little to do with the officers’ everyday work, Matsch said. Significantly more women than men failed it.

“To retroactively impose that requirement on women who have invested their lives as career police officers is fundamentally unfair,” Matsch wrote.

The ruling that Colorado Springs violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 leaves the city on the hook for a possible payout to the plaintiffs for wage loss and emotional distress. A hearing on damages is expected to be set in the coming week.

A California civil rights advocate said it also sends a message to municipalities across the nation to avoid such fitness tests for potential hires and veteran employees.

The issue dates to 2009, when former Chief Richard Myers mandated all officers undergo fitness tests, and the department hired Human Performance Systems of Beltsville, Md., to create the evaluations. They included one-minute sit-up and push-up tests, as well as two running tests, one of which focused on agility.

Forty percent of women failed the test, compared with 9 percent of men. Women police recruits tested that year fared slightly worse, while men did slightly better.

All 12 plaintiffs failed on the first try, The Gazette reports.

 

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