Ford playing anti-sexual harassment video 24/7 at all plants

Vehicles wait for final assembly at the Ford plant in Chicago. 

John J. Watkins, The Times

Ford is now showing an anti-sexual harassment video on a loop 24/7 at all of its plants, including the Chicago Assembly Plant and the Chicago Stamping Plant, encouraging victims to report any abuse and warning supervisors retaliation will not be tolerated.

The Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker launched the national campaign against sexual harassment after a high-profile New York Times expose last week that recapped sexual harassment charges at the factories in Hegewisch and Chicago Heights that had been widely reported by Chicago-area media outlets for decades. It had previously agreed in August to do more to combat sexual harassment at its factories in the Calumet Region.

Ford has settled two class action lawsuits from female workers at the Chicago Assembly Plant, including a 2014 suit in which female workers alleged they were groped, subjected to unwanted requests for sexual favors, harassed by male colleagues who exposed their genitals or shown cellphone pictures of their genitals, and even had crudely hand-carved phallic symbols thrown at them while they were on break.

Ford paid $10.1 million to resolve the latest suit earlier this year, before the #MeToo campaign made such workplace harassment a topic of national conversation, and also agreed to conduct more training and distribute copies of anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies among the workforce.

Now all Ford plants, including those in the Calumet Region, are showing a 2-minute, 40-second video on video monitors that are visible across the plant.

Bruce Hettle, group vice president of global manufacturing and labor affairs, and Jimmy Settles, United Auto Workers vice president, explain Ford's policy on harassment and what to do to report it.

"We want our employees to understand that we will not tolerate sexual harassment or discrimination," said Kelli Felker, a spokeswoman for Ford.

She said the video, which features closed captioning so it can be read if the din of the assembly line drowns it out, will run indefinitely.

Anyone who has experienced harassment at a Ford plant is encouraged to report it via the hotline at 888-735-6650, through a phone app that can be downloaded, by emailing or by talking to a union representative.

"We want to be very clear: We do not and we will not tolerate harassment or discrimination in any way, shape or form," Hettle said in the video. "We take all reports very seriously, and investigate each and every report.

Jim Hackett, Ford president and CEO, plans to visit the Chicago Assembly Plant in Hegewisch to tell its employees the company "has learned" from decades of sexual harassment allegations at its plants and "will do better."

"I will be in front of our employees in Chicago when everyone is back from the holidays to let them know that when they leave for work in the morning, they and their families can expect that they are coming to an environment that is safe, respectful and motivating them to do the best job possible," he said in a letter. "I want to take this opportunity to say that I am sorry for any instance where a colleague was subjected to harassment or discriminatory conduct. On behalf of myself and the employees of Ford Motor Company, who condemn such behavior and regret any harassment as much as I do, I apologize."


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.