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Firefighter, woman sue Ohio city over alleged discrimination in physical fitness test

Cleveland updated its physical agility test in 2020 following the government’s findings of long-standing discrimination against women in the fire department


Photo/Cleveland Fire Department

By Adam Ferrise

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A Cleveland firefighter and a woman passed over for the position sued the city on Wednesday, arguing that an old physical fitness test for prospective hires discriminated against women and caused both to lose time on the job and money.

Firefighter Yolanda McKay said the old test caused her to be passed over in 2017. She was later hired in 2022, two years after the city changed its test. Christine Scott of North Royalton took the test the same year, but she was not chosen for the position.

The lawsuit filed in federal court in Cleveland asks for a judge to order the city to hire Scott. It also seeks that Scott and McKay receive back pay and seniority from the 2017 test.

Cleveland spokesman Tyler Sinclair said in a statement that the city is reviewing the lawsuit to “determine the proper course of action.”

“The city values its commitment to federal and state non-discrimination laws,” Sinclair said.

The city changed its physical agility test in 2020 after the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that the fire department for years discriminated against women in many forms, including the agility test required in the hiring process.

The EEOC found the discrimination was a significant factor in the department’s failure to hire a woman for the job in some 30 years.

When McKay and Scott took the test in 2017, both were mere steps away from finishing when the test-taker said they had run out of time.

Three years later, the city adopted a different test. McKay passed the new test in 2022, and the city hired her, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit said at the end of last year, only 14 of the city’s 778 firefighters were women.

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