CHICAGO — The FBI's rigorous physical fitness test is biased against men, a federal judge has ruled, handing a legal victory to a suburban Chicago man who sued after missing the cutoff to become a special agent by a single pushup.
Jay Bauer, 40, an intelligence analyst for the FBI in Chicago, sued the agency in 2012. The Northwestern University graduate had passed an initial fitness test and scored at or near the top of his class during new-agent training in Quantico, Va., according to the lawsuit.
But Bauer failed a final fitness exam at the FBI Academy, completing 29 of the required 30 untimed pushups. Female trainees are required to do at least 14 untimed pushups, according to the lawsuit.
Attorneys for the FBI had argued that the test was not discriminatory and simply reflected physiological differences between men and women.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis in Virginia wrote last week that despite obvious gender differences, the FBI had failed to prove that the fitness test was an adequate measure of job skills, such as the ability to restrain a suspect.
His ruling does not mean that all tests that try to take account of the physical differences between men and women are illegal, Ellis wrote, only that they must have a valid basis to discriminate.
Bauer's attorney, Michelle Reese Andrew, said the ruling means the FBI must change its fitness test. Andrew plans to ask the judge to place Bauer into a special-agent position and order that he be paid lost wages and attorneys' fees.
A spokeswoman at the FBI's Chicago field office declined to comment.