City officials fired an employee of the Chicago Department of Transportation after he sent “unprovoked offensive, racist, harassing and violent” messages to a Chicagoan on Facebook during the protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in late May, according to a report from the city’s watchdog.
Inspector General Joseph Ferguson began investigating the employee, a laborer with the city’s transportation department, after their co-workers discovered the messages. The laborer's co-workers found the messages “offensive” and believed they created a “hostile work environment,” according to his office’s quarterly report, released Tuesday.
“The messages continued a pattern for the laborer who had previously used misogynist and racist language to refer to a co-worker,” according to the report.
The laborer was not identified, in keeping with rules governing the inspector general’s report.
Ferguson recommended that the laborer be fired, and they were terminated, according to the report. The employee is appealing their termination, which will be considered by the city’s Human Resources Board.
“CDOT does not tolerate any type of harassment or use of racist language,” spokesperson Mike Claffey said in a statement. “In this particular case involving the social media posts, CDOT became aware of and reported these abhorrent posts to the Inspector General’s Office and requested an urgent investigation. CDOT does not tolerate this type of conduct by its employees and the department requested the employee’s termination.”
In a separate case, a motor truck driver assigned to work at O’Hare International Airport was fired after the inspector general determined they posted a threat to harm their coworkers on a Facebook page for other airport truck drivers.
The truck driver was upset by the Chicago Department of Aviation’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, and believed their coworkers were reporting to work while sick. The truck driver wrote that “if they were to get COVID-19, they too would come to work while sick and infect their co-workers,” according to the report.
The truck driver edited the post three times during the 12 hours to make it “less threatening to their coworkers,” according to the report.
The truck driver was not identified, in keeping with rules governing the inspector general’s report.
The revised version of the post urged the truck driver’s coworkers to “pray” that COVID-19 did not “touch” the truck driver’s life because they would “take” all of their co-workers with them, according to the report.
The truck driver “quickly realized the problematic nature of the Facebook post and proactively acknowledged their mistake,” according to the report.
The truck driver “modified the Facebook post and wrote an apology comment below the post, sent an email apologizing for Facebook post to the [Chicago Department of Aviation] commissioner and deputy commissioner, and expressed sincere contrition in their [Office of the Inspector General] interview,” according to the report.
“The health, safety, and well-being of the traveling public and our employees go hand-in-hand, and [the Chicago Department of Aviation] has no higher priority,” said Matt McGrath, a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Aviation. “As such, threatening or abusive behavior will not be tolerated.”
The truck driver is appealing their termination, according to the report.