Firefighter Tests Found Racially Biased

Teacher & Employment Testing
A federal judge has ruled that firefighter employment exams used in Boston, Lynn and other Massachusetts cities are biased against members of minority groups. U.S. District Court Judge Patti B. Saris declared that the use of cognitive exams to sort and rank applicants had been found discriminatory in the 1970s, and despite more than 30 years to develop a better approach, the state continued to use the standardized tests. "These cognitive examinations do not predict how quickly a firefighter can climb stairs with equipment or raise a ladder," she wrote.


The case had been brought as a class-action suit by four firefighters in Lynn. The Boston Society of the Vulcans, and African American firefighters organization, intervened on behalf of the Lynn plaintiffs. The plaintiffs were given 30 days to propose a remedy, with Lynn then having 30 days to respond. The ruling is expected to lead to hiring of excluded minorities in a number of cities. The state had defended the test and is reviewing the decision. Well under 10% of recent hires in Boston and Lynn were racial minorities, though minorities constitute far larger shares of the population.