Black women speak up about sexual harassment at Ford plants

The car company paid more $10 million in settlements, according to New York Times report

The New York Times published an extensive report on the sexual harassment faced by women at Ford plants.

In the wake of the #MeToo cultural movement, stories of sexual misconduct have rocked big industries and places like Hollywood and Capitol Hill. But as the report details, it’s not just the most powerful men who are guilty of this kind of misconduct.

Sexual harassment is pervasive, and unfortunately, it’s often the blue-collar workers who get overlooked. And that tends to mean Black women, in particular, get the shaft when it comes to being seen and heard on this issue.

‘Appropriate action’

Back in August, Ford announced that it had settled a racial and sexual harassment investigation. The car company ended up paying out $10.1 million as a result.

At the time, Ford gave scant details, saying only that it “took appropriate action” against those who violated company policy.

However, the Times piece exposed just how difficult it was for women to be heard, much less get the company to take action.

‘Take it as a compliment’

For many women, reporting sexual harassment became an exercise in futility. Other men in power dismissed their claims or tried to paint them as endangering their coworkers’ futures.

“After a man Ms. Wright had trusted as a mentor made a crack about paying her $5 for oral sex, she asked her union representative for help. He began what she calls a ‘don’t-file-a-claim-against-Bill’ campaign: Her co-worker would lose his job, his benefits, his pension, she was told. Rumors spread, questioning their relationship. Then a union official delivered the final insult: ‘Suzette, you’re a pretty woman — take it as a compliment,’” the Times reported.

What’s more, women who reported harassment often faced even further harassment when they did.

According to the Times, “Those who complained said they faced retaliation from co-workers and bosses. Some women were frightened after harassers warned them to watch their backs. An Army veteran who accused a man of groping her was physically blocked by his friends from doing her work, she said. Later she found her car tires slashed in the parking lot.”

#WhatAboutUs

The #MeToo campaign has taken the world by storm. In fact, Time magazine named the movement as its Person of the Year.

But with so much focus on the big names being accused of sexual misconduct, the normal, everyday harassment faced by working women seems to be ignored.

That’s why blue-collar women have started the #WhatAboutUs hashtag. Sexual harassment isn’t just a Hollywood or Capitol Hill thing, after all. It’s everywhere, and it needs to stop, no matter how powerful or famous the perpetrator.

Ford’s official statement on the matter is below:

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 are taking the steps necessary to reinforce Ford’s commitment to a work environment free of harassment and discrimination.

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