Ford Authority

Update: Ford Offers Clarification Regarding Reports About Sexual Harassment At Chicago Factories

Yesterday, we published a story about a condemnatory New York Times report on rampant sexual harassment at Ford’s Chicago factories – Chicago Assembly, and Chicago Stamping. The Times report was framed by the personal accounts of a dozen women who say they underwent harassment ranging from crude comments and groping, to indecent exposure and coercion.

Ford has since responded to the report, issuing a statement via email to outline the company’s commitment to rooting out sexual harassment at its manufacturing sites and taking punitive action against bad actors. Ford’s statement reads as follows:

Ford does not tolerate sexual harassment or discrimination. We take those claims very seriously and investigate them thoroughly. We have a comprehensive approach to prevent and address sexual harassment and discrimination at our facilities, including:

  • Required training for all new hires that addresses Ford’s anti-harassment policy and the company’s expectations for employee conduct
  • An anti-harassment and retaliation policy, with a number of ways employees can report violations, including an 800 number, a phone app, and an open door policy
  • Comprehensive investigation of harassment allegations with discipline up to and including termination
  • A policy requiring salaried employees to disclose a romantic or familial relationship with another employee in their reporting chain or whose employment conditions they could influence

In addition, more than two years ago, we began taking further actions at our Chicago plants. Those actions include:

  • Conducting more than 20,000 hours of mutual respect training for all hourly and salaried employees
  • Providing additional leadership and diversity training for all salaried employees
  • Delivering additional training on how to properly investigate harassment and discrimination claims for our Human Resources teams
  • Increasing Human Resources staff by more than 30 percent to provide investigations support and oversight, including a staff member that oversees both plants and reports directly to Personnel Relations at Ford headquarters in Dearborn
  • Incorporating a performance objective for senior plant leadership teams and Human Resources personnel to actively promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace and take appropriate actions to ensure compliance with anti-harassment and equal opportunity policies

In August, we agreed with the EEOC to provide an effective method for employees to receive a financial award if an independent panel agrees with their harassment or discrimination complaint.

We don’t doubt that Ford cares immensely about this problem, and is exercising every available means to correct it. Much of the difficulty in cases of sexual harassment is that there are often no witnesses or hard evidence to corroborate victims’ personal accounts, making it difficult to impossible to verify guilt. We don’t want to live in a society that tolerates such abuses, allowing offenders to roam free with their jobs and reputations intact, but nor should we live in one that convicts and punishes based on no more than an accusation.

This stuff is difficult.

And it’s certainly worth mentioning that Ford appears to have made strides in dealing with harassment at its Chicago Assembly and Chicago Stamping plants. The New York Times notes that the automaker has disciplined 27 Chicago employees for harassment since January, 2015, and terminated four managers. Today, Chicago accounts for roughly a quarter of the harassment and gender discrimination-related complaints in Ford’s domestic operations, which is down from half in 2015.

For the sake of the women working at Ford’s Chicago manufacturing sites, we hope that Ford’s efforts will prove effective in overhauling the pervading culture of sexual misconduct at those facilities, permanently.

Aaron Brzozowski is a writer and motoring enthusiast from Detroit with an affinity for '80s German steel. He is not active on the Twitter these days, but you may send him a courier pigeon.

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