Chicago Ford Plant Pays $1.5 million in Area Harassment Suit

Ford Motor Company has paid about $1.5 million to settle a lawsuit that charged widespread sexual harassment and racial discrimination took place at its stamping plant in south suburban Chicago Heights.

The suit, brought by eight women and one male worker, was settled earlier this month. Under the settlement agreement, neither side is permitted to discuss the terms, although a source familiar with the case confirmed the settlement amount.

The original complaint, filed on May 22, 1995, alleged that African-American and Hispanic workers suffered racial slurs from co-workers. The women also allegedly were subject to unwelcome sexual advances from supervisors and a hostile work environment.

The stamping plant has 2,000 workers, about 150 of whom are women, said Ford spokesman Jim Trainor.

Currently pending are five other sexual harassment or discrimination charges that workers have filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Ford spokesman said. The EEOC, he confirmed, is investigating these charges. Before an individual worker can sue a company for violations of employment discrimination law, he or she must have a “right to sue” letter from the EEOC that shows the agency has looked into the charges and made a determination of credibility.

No other sexual harassment suits are pending against Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford, the company said.

Jean Kamp, a lawyer at the EEOC’s Chicago office, said charges that individuals make against an employer are strictly confidential until the worker or this government files a lawsuit. She said she could not comment on the investigation regarding Ford or the possibility of expanding it to a suit representing more women workers.

Kamp is the lead trial lawyer in the government’s sexual harassment suit against Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America.

That suit, the largest sex discrimination case in U.S. history, involves 350 women at the plant in Normal.

In the Chicago Heights case, the lead plaintiff, Jeanette Jones, 54 years old, worked at Ford for 24 years, beginning in 1978.

Her charges of persistent sexual harassment include six supervisors and many co-workers.