CHICAGO (WLS) --The Chicago Fire Department is investigating harassment claims from female firefighter candidates who say they found feces left in a changing area.
ABC7 blurred the photo of what the women say they encountered: feces smeared on a Chicago Fire Department sweatshirt and on a chair.
"It's unbelievable. That's one of the most disgusting things I've ever seen. And it's not a joke. It's not funny," said Greg Boggs, African-American Firefighters & Paramedics League.
Advocates for the women say the discovery was made last week at the firefighter training academy in a changing room used by the 13 female African-American firefighter candidates whose acceptance into the program stirred controversy.
The women had originally applied more than 20 years ago and were rejected, but two class-action lawsuits alleging gender and racial discrimination allowed them to be enrolled.
"It's an unambiguous message: "We don't want you here." Whoever did this is saying, "We don't want you here,'" said Marni Willenson, an attorney for the female firefighter candidates.
"They're working hard, and they're passing their exams, and they're doing the physical part. So they should be treated with more respect. You shouldn't treat anyone like this here. This is not acceptable conduct in any type of way," Boggs said.
ABC7 has learned the city's human resources department is now investigating. The mess was initially determined to be dog feces, though the woman who made the discovery disputes that.
The female candidates - who are all in their 40s and 50s - are weeks from graduation and said to be undeterred.
"They're still focused on the job, and they still want to be firefighters and still want this job very badly," Boggs said.
"It is disturbing that in 2016 this sort of behavior has not been stamped out. This just shouldn't happen," Willenson said.
It's believed the mess was left in that changing room between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m., a time when the building would have been accessible to various members of the fire department. CFD says it's cooperating with the city's investigation.