Ford responds to New York Times story about sexual and racial harassment at Chicago plants

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REUTERS/Bogdan Cristel

  • Ford settled discrimination and harassment charges at two Chicago-area plants in August for $10.1 million.
  • A story in the New York Times reported that the plants continue to be difficult places for women to work.
  • Ford responded to Business Insider’s request for a comment with a statement updating us on the company’s general policies, as well as its efforts at the Chicago plants.

In August, Ford announced that it had reached a $10.1 million settlement of racial and sexual harassment charges at two facilities in the Chicago area.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) led an investigation into the matter and said in a statement that it found “reasonable cause to believe that personnel at two Ford facilities in the Chicago area, the Chicago Assembly Plant and the Chicago Stamping Plant, had subjected female and African-American employees to sexual and racial harassment.”

Ford settled without admitting liability, but the story isn’t over.

In a lengthy article, the New York Times revisited the two plants’ history and reported that “[o]ver the years the company did not act aggressively or consistently enough to root out the problem, according to interviews with more than 100 current and former employees and industry experts, and a review of legal documents.”

The Times story also included brief audio accounts of 11 women’s struggles against harassment at the plants.

As numerous women in the entertainment, media, and technology industries come forward under the #MeToo banner, the Times’ reporters noted that the world of manufacturing has thus far escaped widespread scrutiny.

Ford response to the Times’ report

Chicago Assembly builds the Ford Explorer SUV.

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Chicago Assembly builds the Ford Explorer SUV.
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Ford

In a statement emailed to Business Insider, Ford said that the company “does not tolerate sexual harassment or discrimination.”

“We take those claims very seriously and investigate them thoroughly,” the company added. “We have a comprehensive approach to prevent and address sexual harassment and discrimination at our facilities.”

Those measures include required sexual harassment training for new employees; a means to report harassment; harassment investigations; and a policy that required workers in salary to disclose relationships.

Ford also said that two years ago it initiated new policies at its Chicago plants, ranging from specialized training in respect and diversity to an increase in human-resources personnel to improve harassment and discrimination investigations. Employees also have in place a mechanism to receive a “financial award” if what the company termed an “independent panel” supports a claim.

The Times’ story acknowledged Ford’s efforts, but also reported that a previous settlement was reached in the 1990s.

According to the Times, renewed problems at the plant in recent years may have stemmed from a lack of training for new employees. After the financial crisis, the US auto market started to boom again so Ford began to quickly hire new workers. But in the midst of the hiring surge, the company didn’t always give the proper harassment training, the Times reports.

Ford’s 2017 hasn’t been without other challenges. The carmaker’s CEO, Mark Fields, was replaced in May by Jim Hackett, as its stock price has lagged the overall markets and its industry peers.