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Press Release

Justice Department Files Lawsuit Alleging Sex Discrimination Against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania State Police

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

The Justice Department announced the filing of a lawsuit today against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania State Police, alleging that the defendants are engaged in a pattern or practice of employment discrimination against women in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Specifically, the lawsuit challenges the state police’s use of two physical fitness tests to screen and select entry-level state troopers.


The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, alleges that the physical fitness tests used by the state police between 2003 and the present excluded qualified women from consideration for hire as entry-level state troopers by testing for physical skills that are not required to perform the job. The department also alleges that, during the relevant time period, the defendants’ use of physical fitness tests as part of a multi-step employment selection process disproportionately screened out female applicants, resulting in a disparate impact against those applicants.


Title VII prohibits both intentional discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin and religion as well as employment practices that result in a disparate impact upon a protected group, unless the practices are job-related and consistent with business necessity. The department alleges that the defendants’ use of the challenged physical fitness tests violates Title VII because that use does not meet this standard and does not identify the best qualified applicants for entry-level state trooper jobs.


“The Department of Justice is deeply committed to eliminating artificial barriers that keep qualified women out of public safety work,” said Jocelyn Samuels, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue to challenge discriminatory hiring practices that unnecessarily exclude qualified applicants on account of sex.”


In the lawsuit, the department seeks a court order that would require the Pennsylvania State Police to stop using the challenged physical fitness tests, develop hiring procedures that comply with Title VII and provide make-whole relief, including offers of hire, retroactive seniority, and back pay to individual women who have been harmed as a result of the defendants’ use of the challenged physical fitness tests.


Additional information about Title VII and other federal employment laws is available on the Civil Rights Division’s website at

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Updated August 5, 2015

Press Release Number: 14-794