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Ford had suspended union leader, but UAW appealing

The Chicago Assembly Plant

CHICAGO | Ford suspended a top union leader at its Chicago Assembly Plant after he was one of several people named in a second sexual harassment lawsuit.

Ford temporarily suspended United Auto Workers bargaining committee chairman Allen "Coby" Millender, who will represent the UAW Local 551 in its upcoming bargaining talks with the Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker, according to the union.

"The UAW National Ford Department is aware of an active investigation regarding allegations of sexual harassment at the Chicago Assembly Plant," UAW-Ford vice-president Jimmy Settles stated in a prepared release.

"It has been incorrectly reported that the Plant Chairperson, Allen 'Coby' Millender, was terminated from his position. This is inaccurate. Mr. Millender was temporarily suspended by the company."

Millender has completed his suspension and returned to work April 14, according to the statement. The UAW has filed a grievance challenging his suspension. He remains plant chairperson, the elected leader of the union's bargaining team.

The union's statement on Tuesday was in response to a Times story Monday that stated Millender was terminated.

A class action lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois late last year alleges Millender threatened to move a female employee to an overnight shift if she wouldn't have lunch with him in his office. It also alleges he identified one of the women who complained about sexual harassment to about 200 of her co-workers, who harassed her more in retaliation.

"The UAW and Ford Motor Co. share a strong commitment towards eliminating sexual harassment and discrimination, of any form, in the workplace," Settles stated. "Such conduct is unacceptable, it is not tolerated and there are policies in place to prevent such from occurring."

UAW-Ford said allegations of sexual harassment in the lawsuit remain under investigation. The lawsuit includes allegations of assaults, gropings, catcalls and other harassment of female employees. It alleges the harassment was widespread at the plant and women were punished with shift changes and terminations when they complained.

"It should be noted that an investigation into sexual harassment and discrimination is being conducted by the EEOC," Settles stated. "The EEOC's investigation is separate from, and independent of, investigations being conducted by either the UAW or Ford Motor Co."


Business reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.