The San Antonio Spurs, champions of the National Basketball Association, last week hired a female assistant coach, something new in professional sports. Skeptics call it a publicity stunt, but Becky Hammon knows her game. She is in her 16th season in the Women’s National Basketball Association, and is a six-time All-Star. She wasn’t drafted to play for the Spurs — nor has any other woman been. Women are thought to be not big enough and not strong enough to play with men.
In a game where the scoreboard can’t be argued with, that’s not discrimination, but a simple recognition of the differences in strength, size and stamina between men and women. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. pretends there are no differences. The Justice Department has sued the Pennsylvania State Police, alleging sex discrimination in the hiring of troopers.
The government lawyers argue that the physical-fitness tests the Pennsylvania State Police have used since 2003 “disproportionately disadvantage” women. The government lawyers argue that minimum physical strength and endurance standards in a demanding job is sexist.
The original physical-fitness test consisted of a 300-meter run, sit-ups, push-ups, a vertical jump and a 1.5-mile run. According to statistics cited in the suit, 94 percent of the men and 71 percent of women who tried, succeeded. The test was eased in 2009, raising the men’s pass rate to 98 percent. The women’s pass rate increased by 1 percentage point.
The Justice Department contends this is “statistically significant” and establishes “a disparate impact on women” in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The department’s lawyers argue that if the tests were as easy for women to pass as for men, there would be 119 more women trooper candidates and, eventually, 45 of these women would have been hired.
What cops must do is physically demanding. Chasing and subduing a felon, hopping over a fence and engaging with fists is never easy. It does no slight to recognize the probability that a woman is more likely to lose a confrontation with a bad guy. It helps no one if the police enable criminals to get away because an officer runs out of steam.
“Bona fide occupational qualifications” were once recognized. A blind man (or woman) can’t be a truck driver. An airline pilot is expected to know how to fly an airplane. This is obvious to most of us.
Justice’s lawsuit insists that the physical-fitness tests are “not job-related” for an entry-level trooper position and are “not consistent with business necessity.” Even so, 71 percent of women did pass the test, and some made it through training and are on the job. Mr. Holder isn’t after equal opportunity, but equal outcome.
This should be a slam dunk, and the federal district court judge who hears the case should, like a good NBA referee, send the government lawyers to the showers.