Follow-Up to Audit of Policies and Practices Related to Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Within the Chicago Fire Department

The City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) has completed a follow-up to its April 2021 audit of the Chicago Fire Department’s (CFD) policies and practices related to discrimination and sexual harassment. Based on the Department’s response, OIG concludes that CFD has overall worked towards implementing corrective actions related to the audit findings.

The purpose of the 2021 audit was to determine whether CFD’s discrimination and sexual harassment prevention, reporting, and training policies and practices complied with relevant laws and regulations. We also assessed CFD members’ experiences with and views on the Department’s workplace environment and culture related to discrimination and sexual harassment. 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 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. The audit also found that the Department’s culture and workplace environment may make some members vulnerable to discrimination and/or sexual harassment.

Based on the results of the audit, OIG recommended that CFD provide written guidance and training to its Internal Affairs Division staff on processes for receiving complaints of discrimination or sexual harassment in a trauma-informed manner and referring them to the Department of Human Resources’ Diversity and Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Division for investigation. OIG also recommended that CFD implement training for its members, supplemental to the training provided by the EEO Division, that is tailored specifically to CFD’s unique workplace environment and delivered by instructors with fire service experience. OIG also recommended that CFD appoint a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) officer to work on issues of diversity, discrimination, and sexual harassment. Finally, OIG recommended that CFD develop a strategy to include more safeguards to protect reporting members and victims from potential retaliation. In its response to the audit, CFD described corrective actions it would take.

In February 2022, OIG inquired about corrective actions taken by CFD in response to the audit. Based on the Department’s follow-up response, OIG concludes that CFD has fully implemented one of five corrective actions, substantially implemented two others, partially implemented a fourth, and not implemented the fifth. CFD has issued a general order with specific procedures to ensure complaints of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation are directed to the EEO Division. The Department has also developed trauma-informed training focused on sexual harassment complaints for its IAD investigators. CFD has not implemented supplemental Department-specific training on discrimination and sexual harassment or formally created a DEI-related position, but continues with those efforts. CFD intends to undertake internal initiatives and outreach campaigns to address sexual harassment and discrimination, and to also increase diversity within the Department.

We urge the Department to fully implement a CFD-specific training on discrimination and sexual harassment to supplement the EEO training its members already receive. Once fully implemented, OIG believes the corrective actions reported by CFD may reasonably be expected to resolve the core finding noted in the audit.