A sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Ford Motor Company has come to include 33 women who claim to have been victimized while working at two Chicago – area plants. Employees at Ford’s Assembly Plant and Stamping Plant allege that they were subject to a hostile work environment that included instances of attempted rape, unwanted sexual advances, touching, groping, and men exposing or showing pictures of their genitals.
The federal suit, filed in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Illinois, states that, “Ford is aware of the ongoing discrimination and harassment which occurs on a daily basis in an open manner, such that it is observed by employees and supervisors, and has turned a blind eye toward it.”
The plaintiffs claim that complaints to Ford management were met with more harassment, discrimination, and retaliation – alleging that women who dared to speak up were written up or threatened with termination. “Ford knowingly allowed sexual harassers, molesters, and sex offenders to remain in the workplace and repeat heinous acts of sexual harassment”, they say. The suit includes a description of a “pattern and practice of discrimination” that included male employees receiving days off and overtime pay they had not earned, while women were never granted such privileges.
Ford’s attorney Eugene Scalia, son of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, has asked the court to dismiss the case on a wide range of grounds. In a motion to dismiss, the motor company’s legal team wrote, “Ford cannot be held vicariously liable for acts outside the scope of managers’ and supervisors’ employment; the claims are preempted by the Illinois Workers Compensation Act; and the intentional infliction of emotional distress claims are preempted by the Illinois Human Rights Act.”
Ford Motors is no stranger to sexual harassment lawsuits. In 2000, they settled a similar suit filed by 14 female employees for $19.5 million. If the Chicago plaintiffs can successfully establish their claims for discrimination and retaliation, it is likely that Ford will be required to pay a far greater sum.