Women testify about harassment at Ford plants in Chicago

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The Chicago City Council's Finance Committee heard testimony from women about sexual harassment at the city's two Ford plants. (WLS)

Three women testified Tuesday at the Chicago City Council's Finance Committee meeting about sexual harassment they experienced while working at Ford Motor Company's two Chicago plants.

The women -- current and former Ford employees at the Chicago facilities -- detailed experiences at the hands of both their supervisors and the union reps that should have protected them.

"He picked me up against the window and groped me and dropped me down like I was a piece of trash," said Christie Van, a Ford employee.

"When I asked the Union's plant chairman for assistance, he told me if I wanted his help, I had to get down on my knees," said Miyoshi Morris, a former Ford employee.

They said new female employees were referred to as fresh meat and were constantly propositioned. There was retaliation against those who complained, and others were even dismissal.

"I ended up living in my car with my disabled son," Van said.

The allegations against Ford's Chicago plants are not new. These women are just three of the more than 50 who filed a class action lawsuit three years ago against the company. The case is still ongoing.

Chicago Ald. Ed Burke (14th Ward) called for Tuesday's hearing, wishing to hear the women's stories. Ford is one of the largest suppliers of police vehicles in the state.

"The evil of harassment can take place in every aspect of American life," Burke said.

Ford executives did not attend the meeting. In a letter to employees released in December, CEO Jim Hackett apologized, saying: "There is absolutely no room for harassment at Ford ...Our promise is there will be no retaliation against anyone who speaks up, and no one is above the rules, no matter where they are in the hierarchy."

In a statement to ABC7, Ford detailed a series of specific actions, being taken in Chicago including additional training and resources.

Others however suggesting these are not enough, calling on the EEOC to place permanent monitors at both plants and suggesting the city impose certain pre-conditions not just on Ford, but on all companies looking for its business.

Below is a full statement from Ford:

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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