Lawsuit alleges sexual harassment at Chicago's Ford assembly plant

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Several female workers are suing Chicago's Ford plant, claiming sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation at the assembly plant on the city's South Side. (WLS)

Several female workers are suing Chicago's Ford plant, claiming sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation at the assembly plant at 126th and Torrence on the city's South Side. The lawsuit includes hundreds of detailed allegations of sexually explicit conduct against women, and the workers claim they have gone on for more than two decades.

This isn't the first time we've heard these types of complaints about Chicago's assembly plant. There was another case several years ago, but this lawsuit is based on new allegations about a workplace hostile to women. These women say no one would listen when they complained about sexual harassment.

"It got bad where I was basically given ultimatums if I didn't attend sex parties," said Maria Price.

"They may not make the statement directed at me, but they make it in regards to my female companions, so it bothers me and they know it," said Helen Allen.

The women are part of class action lawsuit against Ford. The complaint alleges sexual harassment, abuse and discrimination at Ford's assembly plant on Torrence Avenue. They say male coworkers, managers and supervisors would target them if they complained about propositions and inappropriate conduct.

"Those people treated me so badly I couldn't even feed my disabled son," said Christie Van.

Ford did not have anyone who would do an interview and would not discuss details of any employee's complaint, but issued a statement saying in part: "Ford is proud to be an equal opportunity employer and takes reports of harassment or discrimination very seriously. Where allegations of misconduct are raised, it is our policy to investigate them thoroughly and take all appropriate steps in response."

In 1999, another class action lawsuit alleged sexual harassment at the Ford assembly plant. It was settled and a monitor was appointed. The attorney representing the women said Monday that once the monitor left, so did their protection.

"Ford continues to tolerate, and in many instances condone, an atmosphere that is demoralizing and demeaning toward women," attorney Keith Hunt said.

"I wish the other female workers and the women at the plant, that they won't have to go through all that we have," said Charmella LeViege.

The women who came forward said there are others who don't feel safe. They say they just want to do their jobs without looking over their shoulders.

The lawsuit asks a monitor be put in place permanently. The women says there is a hotline they could call to report sexual harassment. They say when they called, they were told to go back to work and keep quiet.
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