Led by the Feminist Majority Foundation, the National Center for Women & Policing, and the Women’s Law Project of Philadelphia, nine women’s rights and women’s law enforcement organizations filed an amicus brief supporting the five women plaintiffs challenging Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s (SEPTA) requirement that applicants must run 1.5 miles in 12 minutes; a requirement that disproportionately screens out a large number of qualified women applicants.
“At first, women were told we simply couldn’t be police officers,” said Penny Harrington, Director of the National Center of Women & Policing and former Chief of Police of Portland Oregon, describing the history of discriminatory hiring tests used by law enforcement agencies. “Then, when we proved them wrong, they said you had to be very tall to be a police officer–taller than the average woman. Once we showed height had nothing to do with job performance and struck down height requirements in hiring they came up with this type of test – one that uses standards that are simply not job-related but are very good at keeping women out of law enforcement.”
“SEPTA failed to provide evidence that this test was necessary for the safety of officers or the public,” explained Sharyn Tejani, legal director for the Feminist Majority Foundation and the National Center for Women & Policing and an author of the amicus brief. “In fact, many incumbents on the SEPTA force have been unable to pass this test, yet they have been promoted and received commendations.”
The case is Lanning v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority and is in the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals. FMF, NCWP and WLP were joined on the brief by the American Civil Liberties Union Women’s Rights Project, ACLU Pennsylvania, the National Partnership for Women & Families, the National Women’s Law Center, Pennsylvania National Organization for Women, Inc., and Women in Federal Law Enforcement.