CHICAGO -- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has reached a major settlement with the Ford Motor Company providing nearly $8 million in damages to be paid to female employees alleged to have been victimized by sexual harassment, racial harassment, harassment on the basis of sex, and retaliation for complaining to management about the harassment.
Ford has also agreed to train all of its employees on prevention of job discrimination. Ford expects to spend a projected $10 million to conduct the training. In addition, Ford will take steps to increase representation of females entering supervisory positions to 30% over the next three years at its Chicago Stamping and Assembly Plants.
As part of the agreement, a three-member panel of independent monitors will oversee the implementation of the pact, including the claims process for distribution of monetary damages to eligible claimants. In addition, Ford has agreed to submit for the panel's approval its policies for prevention and correction of employment discrimination and for the internal resolution of employee complaints. EEOC and Ford will each appoint one member of the panel, with the third being chosen by the EEOC-Ford members.
"This settlement demonstrates the EEOC's commitment to eradicate harassment from the workplaces of America," said EEOC Chairwoman Ida L. Castro. "The terms of the agreement -- the monetary relief provided to the Ford workers, zero tolerance policies, training and efforts to increase the representation of women in supervisory positions -- will not only better the lives of the female employees at Ford but will also serve as a model to employers nationwide who are committed to providing harassment-free environments to their workers."
John P. Rowe, Director of EEOC's Chicago office, which handled the case, added: "Throughout the negotiation process, Ford was receptive to our invitation to work with the EEOC to provide substantial remedies to its employees and to develop a process to rid its work site of this invidious form of discrimination. We are pleased to have achieved these results through a cooperative process, without having to resort to protracted litigation."
Cheryl Mabry-Thomas, EEOC's lead investigator of the charges filed against Ford, said, "By entering into this very significant settlement, we are sending a strong message to the business community that EEOC is committed to vigorously pursuing allegations of harassment wherever and whenever they may arise. At the same time, we hope this action makes a statement to employees who believe they have been the victims of this kind of conduct, that EEOC is capable of firmly remedying such situations, regardless of the size of the employer."
According to the terms of the main agreement, which will remain in effect for three years, Ford will pay $7.5 million, to be distributed among a class of eligible claimants as defined in the agreement. Under a related confidential agreement, Ford will pay a total of $250,000 to two female employees to resolve their individual charges. In addition, Ford agreed to undertake efforts to increase the level of female representation in the first line supervisory cadre over the term of the agreement. A goal has been set to place females in 30% of the entry supervisory openings at its Chicago Stamping and Assembly Plants.
Ford agreed to the appointment of a three-person panel of independent monitors to oversee the execution of the terms of the agreement. The company will submit to the panel for its approval policies prohibiting sexual harassment, harassment on the basis of sex, and racial harassment, along with its revised internal complaint procedures designed to encourage workers to come forward with complaints of harassment. Once the policies have been approved, the panel will be responsible for overseeing Ford's implementation and enforcement of those policies. All compensation and expenses of the panel in carrying out its responsibilities will be paid by Ford, according to the agreement.
The agreement also calls for Ford to provide training on the prevention of discrimination and the panel-approved policies and procedures. Ford projects that it will spend $10 million to provide the training to all its employees. The agreement requires that Ford provide such training, as well as the implementation of the revised policies and procedures, not only at the Chicago-area plants, but at certain other Ford facilities.
Sexual harassment refers to hostile or offensive conduct of a specifically sexual nature, such as making unwelcome sexual advances or comments, sexual assault/touching, etc. Harassment on the basis of sex refers to adverse or demeaning language or conduct generally indicating hostility to the presence of persons in the workplace because of their sex. Under the law, both are considered forms of sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
The claims against Ford were brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex, race, religion, color or national origin. The EEOC is also responsible for enforcing the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended, which prohibits discrimination against persons age 40 and over; the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which prohibits wage discrimination based on sex; and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which prohibits employment discrimination based on disability.
Further information about EEOC's enforcement of the laws prohibiting harassment and other forms of employment discrimination is available on the agency's web site at www.eeoc.gov.