Cook County in Substantial Compliance of Hiring Practices, Ending Federal Oversight
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced today that Cook County has been found in compliance with the Shakman Consent Decree and will be released from federal oversight.
At a hearing in U.S. District Court, Judge Sidney I. Schenkier granted the parties joint motion for substantial compliance and has agreed to dismiss the County from the Shakman v. The County of Cook, et al. litigation.
“Today marks a significant moment in Cook County’s history. When I took office, I made clear that we needed to reform and reshape Cook County government and that included professionalizing the County’s employment practices in an accountable and transparent way,” Preckwinkle said. “We have proven that we are using a fair employment process and hiring qualified candidates to provide the crucial services expected by those who live and work in Cook County. I’m grateful to those who have made this momentous accomplishment possible.”
In 1972, Cook County entered into a consent decree that prohibited the County from politically discriminating against County employees. In 1994, the County entered into a second consent decree incorporating the 1972 consent decree’s prohibitions and extending those prohibitions to include the County’s hiring practices of new employees.
In 2006, the Plaintiffs alleged past violations of the consent decrees and the County and Plaintiffs entered into a supplemental relief order (SRO). The SRO was ultimately approved by the Court on February 2, 2007, and resulted in the appointment of a federal compliance administrator to oversee the County’s compliance.
“We have worked diligently to foster a culture of professionalism and accountability and have left behind bad practices of the past,” Preckwinkle said. “Our reforms, and the recognition of those reforms, will save the County millions of dollars.”
Preckwinkle has been at the forefront of numerous initiatives promoting fair and equitable employment practices; mandating annual employment plan training; implementing various reporting requirements and contact logs; encouraging reform and cooperation with the Office of the Independent Inspector General (OIIG) and supporting policies and procedures that prohibit unlawful political consideration and unlawful political contacts.
Among the accomplishments that have led to Cook County’s achieving substantial compliance in the Shakman case are:
- Adopting and implementing a comprehensive employment plan for all County offices under the jurisdiction of the President, including the Cook County Public Defender. Also, adopting and implementing a comprehensive employment plan for the OIIG and the Cook County Health and Hospital System.
- Implementing pro-active and transparent employment-related policies, practices and procedures that will prevent and remedy the negative effects of unlawful political contacts and unlawful political discrimination as required by Executive Order, ordinances and applicable law.
- Implementing employment-related policies, practices and procedures that prohibit influence of political reasons and factors for non-exempt positions.
- Requiring reporting to the OIIG for every employee of the County who learns of, or has a reasonable belief that, unlawful political discrimination or political contact has occurred or is occurring.
- Creating a complaint hotline, formal reporting procedures and whistleblower protections that support the investigative and disciplinary process and effectively detect and deter wrongdoing.
- Prohibiting retaliation, punishment or penalty for reporting a political contact, initiating a complaint related to any alleged unlawful political contact or unlawful political discrimination, or cooperating with or assisting those investigations.
- Empowering the OIIG to independently monitor and investigate County and CCHHS employment plans for substantial compliance and unlawful political discrimination and unlawful political contact.
- Passing new ordinances and protocols to increase the scope of the OIIG’s authority and requiring County employees to cooperate with such investigations.
- Adopting regular reporting and auditing requirements related to various elements of the employment plans and supplemental policies in order in order to increase public transparency and accountability.
- Developing and conducting extensive training programs to educate employees.