Progress Reported by Chicago Fire on Addressing EEO Concerns

The City of Chicago’s Office of Inspector General has completed a follow-up report on its 2021 audit of the Chicago Fire Department’s policies and practices related to discrimination and sexual harassment. The original audit completed in April, 2021 concluded that while the CFD’s policies themselves met the requirements of federal, state and local law, they were insufficient to fully protect members who are vulnerable to discrimination and/or sexual harassment.

The OIG recommended a number of changes in terms of how the department should respond to complaints of harassment and discrimination, including:

  1. Create and implement written guidelines instructing IAD staff on how to receive, process, and refer complaints involving discrimination or sexual harassment to the EEO Division.
  2. Provide formal training to IAD staff on how to handle complaints about discrimination and sexual harassment in a trauma-informed manner.
  3. On an ongoing basis, supplement the standard EEO training with CFD-specific training on discrimination and sexual harassment. The Department could hire outside instructors, ideally with fire service experience, or use its own personnel to provide the training.
  4. Appoint a DEI officer to work with the Department on issues of diversity, discrimination, and sexual harassment. Relatedly, OIG recommended that CFD continue to work closely with DHR to recruit a diverse applicant pool that reflects the racial makeup of Chicago.
  5. Develop a strategy to include more safeguards that further protect members from acts of discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation. This strategy should account for the fact that many members live together while at work and should be tailored to CFD’s specific workplace. OIG also recommended that CFD work to foster a culture where victims of discrimination and sexual harassment do not fear making complaints.

According to the April 2022 OIG report, one of the recommendations has been fully implemented, two have been substantially implemented, one has been partially implemented, and one remains unaddressed.

In particular, the OIG noted that effective last October, complaints of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation are going to be handled by the EEO Division rather than the internal affairs division. In addition, the Assistant Commissioner for Internal Affairs is responsible to regularly review complaints to identify any that need to be referred to the EEO Division.

Here is a copy of the OIG Report:

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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