Discriminatory Hiring in Philadelphia Police Department


Brace v Philadelphia

In 1974, we filed a lawsuit on behalf of Penelope Brace seeking reinstatement in the Police Department and an end to discriminatory policies excluding women from almost every part of the police force. (Women were only allowed to work as juvenile aids at the time.) A week after we filed the case, the U.S. Justice Department filed another case arguing that the policies violated the Constitution and civil rights laws, and the cases were consolidated. Trial began in 1976, after which the judge ordered the hiring of 100 female officers and a two-year study of their performance.

Upon completion of the study, the judge rejected the City’s argument that women were unable to competently serve as police officers, and further found that the Police Department’s strict height requirement discriminated illegally against women. Rather than continuing to litigate, the two sides then reached an agreement. The resulting consent decree ended hiring policies that discriminated against women, gave the Court continuing oversight of proposed hiring practices, and provided back pay to the individual women involved in the case.