There is a controversy in the New York fire department where FDNY candidate Wendy Tapia will be allowed to graduate despite failed the physical test to become a firefighter six times. Adding to the controversy, Lt. Elizabeth Osgood, who objected to Tapia’s special treatment, was allegedly barred from promotion for months. Tania’s treatment has raised objections that the FDNY is trying to avoid a gender discrimination lawsuit after it was sued successfully for $98 million for racial discrimination.
Tapia was conditionally graduated on May 17, 2013 and was allowed five more chances to run the required 1.5 miles in 12 minutes or less.
United Women Firefighters, a group of active and retired FDNY women, campaigned to get Tapia extra times to pass the exam. They have insisted that she was overtrained and that her criticism amounts to “hazing.” Tapia, 34, was assigned to Engine No. 316 in East Elmhurst, Queens, but never worked a shift. She blamed the first failure on a foot injury but then failed the test five more times.
I expect many will now argue that the FDNY cannot now refuse to conditionally graduate men and refuse the times six Mulligans on testing criteria without being guilty of gender discrimination against males.
Over the years, various written exams and degree requirements have been dropped for police and firefighters as discriminatory. However, physical tests have been treated as objective and essential not just for public safety but the safety of officers and firefighters (and their comrades) in dangerous circumstances. The question is whether litigation pressures are placing units at risk in relaxing physical strength requirements. The same controversy has been raging in the military this year.
What do you think about allowing candidates more chances and conditional graduation to increase the numbers of women firefighters?