- The Ford Motor Company will pay $10.125 million to settle racial and sexual harassment charges at two of its Chicago plants, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced. African-American and female employees claim they were harassed by co-workers at the Chicago Assembly and the Chicago Stamping plants.
- EEOC says it found enough evidence to support the plaintiffs' claims of racial and sexual harassment. The agency also says that Ford retaliated against the plaintiffs for reporting the allegations, in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
- In a five-year agreement with EEOC, Ford agreed to conduct regular training sessions at two Chicago-area facilities, continue distributing its policies and procedures against harassment and discrimination to current and new employees, report complaints of harassment and discrimination to the agency and monitor its workforce for sexual and racial discrimination allegations.
If employers did voluntarily what Ford agreed to do by consent, fewer sexual and racial harassment allegations and multi-million dollar settlements might be necessary. Workplaces that don't promote and enforce anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies could face similar penalties to Ford's if they don't reduce their risk of liability.
The list of companies charged with sexual misconduct within just the past 12 months is long. Included are high-profile companies like Uber, Tesla, Wendy's, Fox News and Sterling Jewelers, as well as smaller, lesser-known employers like UploadVR and Special Education Associates. Social Finance, Inc., a student loan refinancing startup, is one of the latest employers facing such allegations.
A cleaning firm was charged with discriminating against African Americans and Facebook was charged with racial discrimination in job and housing ads; CNN is facing a class-action racial discrimination suit from African-American employees.
Several industries are represented among the alleged violators, but the tech and manufacturing industries seem to have a large share of racial and sexual misconduct claims. In a recent study, HR managers in tech companies received the lowest ratings on performance of HR professionals in other industries. Former Uber employees pointed out what they described as HR's failings in handling misconduct. Tesla and Uber replaced their CHROs as first steps in turning around their companies. Right or wrong, the burden often falls on HR to ward off allegations, if not prevent racial discrimination and sexual misconduct altogether.
HR leaders can set and enforce policies on misconduct not only to comply with the law, but also to cultivate workplaces in which all employees are respected and protected from bias and abuse.