September 20, 2019

Ford Workers Who Sued Over Sexual Harassment Face Setback

Ford Workers Who Sued Over Sexual Harassment Face Setback


Lawyers for the women did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The company first faced sustained criticism about sexual harassment at the two plants in the 1990s, when dozens of women sued or filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In a settlement with that agency in 2000, Ford agreed to pay $22 million, including $9 million in damages to at least 100 women. As part of the deal, the company denied liability but pledged to make changes overseen by outside monitors.

Conditions seemed to improve for a time, but complaints about sexual harassment surged once again around 2011. By then, the company was recovering from the Great Recession, and new hires had flooded into factories.

By August 2017, the E.E.O.C. and Ford had reached another settlement, for $10 million, over sexual and racial harassment at the two Chicago plants. On Friday, a spokeswoman for the company said that 835 workers had received checks as part of the settlement. The full terms were confidential, but the deal required more improvements at the company, including greater accountability for managers. Monitors will oversee the plants for five years.

The Ford plants, which offered good pay and benefits at a time when the nation’s manufacturing base was eroding, had once been the exclusive preserve of men. Some of the harassment was fueled by resentment at the presence of women on the factory floor.

Many of the female employees who sued are African-American, and accused black, white and Latino men of misconduct. Some of the women said they also endured racial slurs, and some who complained faced retaliation.

Their union, the United Auto Workers, offered limited recourse. The 2014 lawsuit accuses union representatives of harassment and of trying to stop women from filing complaints.

Catrin Einhorn contributed reporting, and Susan C. Beachy contributed research.



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