Resource: Lewis v. City of Chicago: "The Chicago Firefighters Case"

By: NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund

February 14, 2014

In 1995, Chicago administered an entry-level firefighter exam to more than 26,000 applicants. The passing score was 65 out of 100, but against the advice of its own expert the City arbitrarily divided those who passed into two groups: applicants who scored between 65 and 88, and applicants who scored 89 and above. On eleven separate occasions from 1996 to 2002, the City hired firefighters—more than 1,000 in total—using the 89 cut-off score. As a federal district court would later find, the 89 cut-off score was a “statistically meaningless bench-mark” that provided no useful information regarding the relative abilities of the test passers nor had any bearing on job performance.