Ford faces class action suit by female employees

Sexual harassment in Chicago area alleged

Auto industry

October 20, 1999|By BLOOMBERG NEWS

CHICAGO -- Ford Motor Co., the world's No. 2 carmaker, must face a class action lawsuit brought by female auto workers who contend that they were targets of discrimination and sexual harassment on the job, a federal judge has ruled.

Ford recently reached an agreement with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to establish a $7.5 million fund to pay workers hired since 1996 at its Chicago stamping and assembly plants who can prove that they were sexually harassed. The automaker claimed that agreement settled suits brought by several women employees and precluded further class actions.

But U.S. District Judge Elaine E. Bucklo disagreed and on Friday granted class action status to claims brought by 850 women employed at the Chicago plants since Dec. 2, 1993. Her action arises from two cases filed last year that have since been consolidated.

In the most recent cases, several women say they were "subjected to unwanted or unwelcome sexual advances, touching, comments of a sexual nature, lurid, foul and offensive language and name calling" at Ford, according to the plaintiffs' lawyers.

In a related case, some women employees said they experienced a hostile work environment, in which they were subjected to pornographic pictures and objectionable graffiti.

Ford said it may appeal Bucklo's ruling.

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