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

Report Details

Report Description: 
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted an audit assessing the Chicago Fire Department’s (CFD) policies and practices related to discrimination and sexual harassment. The objectives of the audit were to determine if CFD’s discrimination and sexual harassment prevention, reporting, and training policies and practices comply with relevant laws and regulations. The audit also sought to assess employees’ views on the Department’s workplace environment and culture related to discrimination and sexual harassment. OIG concluded 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, are insufficient to meet the environmental challenges posed by a command and control emergency service operation like CFD. Furthermore, the Department’s culture and workplace environment may make some members vulnerable to discrimination and/or sexual harassment. The Department is not alone in facing these issues; nationwide, fire department demographics are relatively homogenous and share historical cultural challenges related to discrimination and sexual harassment. The results of an OIG survey of CFD members indicate that concerns about discrimination and sexual harassment persist within the Department. The survey also revealed negative sentiments some CFD members hold regarding non-White, non-male members, and toward inclusive hiring practices. These attitudes may contribute to an environment that some members believe places them at significant risk of racial and gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment. Two hundred eighty-five CFD employees, or 6% of the Department’s roughly 5,000-person workforce, responded to the survey. While their responses may not represent the views of all CFD employees, they do provide valuable insights into the Department’s culture. OIG also found that the mandatory training the Department of Human Resources – Diversity and Equal Employment Opportunity Division (EEO Division) provides to CFD is high-quality, but that it is not adequately tailored to serve the needs of the Department’s command and control structure, unique aspects of its workplace, and the tension arising from its history of overt racial and gender discrimination.
Date Issued: 
Wednesday, April 14, 2021
Agency Reviewed / Investigated: 
Chicago, IL
United States
Cook County
Type of Report: 
Professional Standard: 
GAO's Yellow Book, Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards (GAGAS)
Special Projects: 

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