Brewing Problem for Ford Motor Company Highlights a Need for Harassment Training for Managers



In November 2014 a group of four female employees filed a lawsuit against Ford Motor Company in Chicago, alleging that they were harassed and retaliated against as a matter of company policy throughout their time at the auto manufacturing giant. Ford denied responsibility and dismissed the allegations as inconsistent with its way of handling such complaints over the course of the past two decades (following a similar scandal in the mid-1990’s).

The problem for Ford just became much worse, as dozens of female employees have joined the pending class action lawsuit, according to a recent report. An amended complaint filed in federal court claims the harassment the women allegedly suffered was not limited to the south-side plant where the first four women worked, but also was prevalent at the Chicago Heights institution. If successful, the class action lawsuit could cost Ford millions of dollars in damages and attorneys fees.

The amended complaint filed by the now dozens-large group of women claims they were routinely groped, faced sexual assault, and regularly were asked by managers for sexual favors. Further, women who complained were written up, given less-desirable jobs and didn't get overtime, according to the lawsuit.

Harassment Within the Company Allegedly “Widespread” and “Ongoing”

In 2015 there is simply no excuse for a pattern of sexual harassment to pervade an entire facility at a large company, much less spread across several facilities. Simply stated, harassment training for managers is designed to prevent this very behavior from ever occurring, and is further designed to allow managers to detect the flash points for the behavior and stop it before it is allowed to spread.

There is no doubt that isolated incidents of misconduct by rogue managers will continue to occur. However, according to the Ford lawsuit the company culture has maintained “an ongoing and continuous environment [of harassment] in these plants that has never really been effectively remediated.”

Women Allege Retaliation for Complaining of Harassing Behavior

Making matters worse for Ford, following the last round of widespread harassment allegations against the company nearly twenty years ago, Ford allegedly implemented a “harassment hotline” whereby victims of harassment could call in and complain about workplace misconduct. However, according to the current lawsuit, the company was able to gain information as to who was calling in to complain, and the company went so far as to interrogate and discipline its employees for exercising their right to complain.

Allowing sexual harassment to persist within a company culture is bad enough, but retaliating against employees for making complaints (if the allegations prove true) evidences a lack of training and institutional control with respect to policies and practices. All of this adds up to a costly situation for Ford that could have easily been avoided with cost effective and time sensitive harassment training for managers and employees.

Assuming your company wants to avoid the possibility of a situation similar to Ford’s we highly recommend contacting Syntrio to schedule harassment training. Indeed, Syntrio’s representatives are ready to discuss our industry-leading harassment training courses. 

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Posted in Compliance Training, Managing Within the Law, Retaliation, Sexual Harassment and tagged , , , , , , , .