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The Office of Inspector General (OIG) has found that the Chicago Fire Department (CFD) has implemented corrective actions for its policies and practices related to discrimination and sexual harassment. However, they still need to implement tailored training, according to the OIG’s follow-up report to its April 2021 audit of the fire department.
The purpose of the audit last year was to determine whether the Chicago Fire Department’s sexual harassment and discrimination prevention, reporting, and training policies and practices complied with relevant laws and regulations. CFD has been a defendant in multiple discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuits. Their staff is 91% male and 64% Caucasian.
In their report, the OIG wrote:
Our audit found that while CFD’s policies comply with baseline federal, state, and local laws, the policies themselves, as well as the complaint process and the training used to enforce and promote them, were insufficient to meet the environmental challenges posed by a command and control emergency service operation like CFD.
They added that their report determined that the Chicago Fire Department’s workplace and culture “environment may make some members vulnerable to discrimination and/or sexual harassment.” In addition, they determined that the fire department’s process for scheduling interviews for those who made formal complaints about harassment or discrimination placed them at risk of retaliation and potentially discouraged them from reporting misconduct.
The city’s Office of Inspector General conducted a survey at CFD. The data they collected showed that people had a “fear of retaliation” if they spoke out. Some stated they were concerned “that speaking up would hurt one’s career.” The OIG made several recommendations to the Chicago Fire Department who stated they would implement the suggestions.
In February 2022, the OIG contacted the CFD to inquire about the corrective actions they were to implement. Based on their response to the follow-up audit, the OIG concluded they had fully implemented one of the five corrective actions. Furthermore, they had significantly applied two other suggestions and partially implemented a fourth. The OIG concluded the CFD had not applied the fifth suggestion.
The Department has issued a general order with specific procedures to ensure that complaints of harassment, retaliation, and discrimination are:
- Directed to the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Division rather than to the Internal Affairs (IAD) Division.
- Assigned equity, diversity, and inclusion officer duties to an existing staff member.
They have also created and implemented internal initiatives and policies meant to bolster the Chicago Fire Department’s “zero-tolerance policy” toward sexual harassment and discrimination by its members. These implements include the “Honor Our House” initiative and the adoption of a Core Values Statement.
The initiative will include training, educational opportunities, and reminders about the CFD’s stance on harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. The Core Values Statement institutes guiding principles that intend to “lead all members to be a positive presence amongst each other and the communities” the Chicago Fire Department serves.
The CFD has stated they have worked with the Chicago Police Department‘s (CPD) Investigative Development Group to develop trauma-informed concepts for IAD investigators. However, the Chicago Fire Department still needs to fully implement a specific training program on sexual harassment and discrimination to supplement the EEO training its members already receive.
Written by Sheena Robertson
Press Release: OIG’s Follow-Up Finds That the Chicago Fire Department Has Implemented Corrective Actions for Its Policies and Practices Related to Discrimination and Sexual Harassment, but Still Needs to Implement Tailored Training
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