Q & A

Written on 06/10/2022
Will Aitchison

From Washington:
Question: What is your understanding of case laws and court rulings regarding physical fitness tests? Can a department require them? Can punishment be handed out for failure to meet standards? Can departments award “perks” or “bonuses” for passing PFT’s or exceeding certain standards? I’ve been told fitness tests have been challenged in courts and ruled against them, meaning they can’t be required. Some state that it’s because it’s not “fair” to those who have medical exemptions, etc. I’m a firm believer that law enforcement should have to pass annual or semiannual fitness tests to keep their jobs, but what is your understanding of court rulings and grievances/challenges?

Answer: Subject to three conditions, physical fitness tests are legal and enforceable. Those conditions are significant, however. First, in a state with collective bargaining, labor boards have consistently held that physical fitness requirements and incentive plans must be negotiated with the union before they are implemented. Second, if a physical fitness test has an adverse impact on those in protected class – and most public safety plans do have an adverse im­pact on women – the employer must show that the plan is both “job related” and “consistent with business necessity.” Third, if the plan calls for employees unable to pass the test being subject to discipline, and if the employer is in a collective bargaining environment, the employer would need to prove “just cause” for any discipline it imposes.

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