Multiple harassment cases at Chicago plant finally addressed in letter

AP Photo/Matt York

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In regards to multiple instances of sexual harassment at an assembly plant in Chicago, Ford CEO Jim Hackett apologizes.

According to CBS, Hackett reported Ford will not tolerate harassment or retaliation against workers who report it in an open letter.

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Below is an open letter from Ford President and CEO Jim Hackett:

I come to work each day at Ford with a sense of extreme optimism. Since our founding in 1903, Ford has remained one of the most successful and respected companies in the world. Most other great companies from a century ago are gone for one reason or another.

To thrive for 114 years means Ford had to do many things right. And when it didn’t, it needed to acknowledge things would have to change if we wanted to be here in the future.

This week,The New York Timesdetailed a number of allegations of sexual harassment at our plants in Chicago over many years. Candidly, it was gut wrenching to read the accounts of these women in
The New York Times article. Sexual harassment has been the center of a needed conversation confronting the haunting issues that one would hope had improved as the world gets smarter, more incisive and accountable. Most importantly, 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. More importantly, I promise that we will learn from this and we will do better. As an experienced CEO, I know there is no institution of merit that would support or condone an environment like the one described in this article. And there is absolutely no room for harassment at Ford Motor Company. We don’t want you here, and we will move you out for engaging in any behavior like this. Our promise is there will be no retaliation against anyone who speaks up, and no one is above the rules, no matter where they are in the hierarchy. This is absolute. We have zero tolerance for any behavior like this, and we will stamp it out together.

Ford has been grappling with these allegations in Chicago for some time. There were EEOC settlements in 1999 and earlier this year that will provide relief to women who were subjected to harassing conduct. While we believe that airing of these issues and the steps the company has taken will help us move forward, we are deeply disappointed that at any time any of our employees may have thought this was okay behavior. When we leave for work every day, our families expect that we are going to an environment that is safe, healthy and respectful. In fact, the outstanding reputation and acclaim that Ford has earned in the world is a source of pride for all of us who work at Ford Motor Company as well as our families.

Having read and reread the article, I can’t let there be any doubt on where we stand on harassment and felt compelled to share these thoughts more publicly: We have zero tolerance for it. It is critical to be clear to all of our employees about what right and wrong is.

If your people do not feel safe and respected, they won’t work for your company. And your successful company will falter. I can assure you that the people here care deeply about the employees in Chicago and have worked hard to improve the situation and continue to do so. During the past two years, Ford and the UAW have invested in 20,000 hours of employee training at the Chicago plants to reinforce a standard of mutual respect that is non-negotiable.

In addition, we have significantly increased staffing at the plants to provide more oversight and quickly investigate any reported incidences of harassment or discrimination. We also entered into a settlement with the EEOC that I mentioned earlier, which establishes a panel of three independent experts to monitor personnel related matters in the plants such as harassment investigations, training and adherence to policies for up to five years.

In addition, the settlement creates a fund of more than $10 million to provide relief to those employees who have been subjected to harassing conduct We “get” our responsibility to make all Ford work environments safe and respectful for all Ford employees, and we are working hard to fulfill that responsibility. This has been a learning experience about how difficult it can be to root out bad behavior.

I’ve been in business for too long, though, to believe you can create a great culture simply through a top-down dictate. While it’s vital that the values of the company are unambiguous and start at the top, this cascade of values needs to permeate every employee’s consciousness. And those employees, in addition to management, must make it clear to every new member joining the team what is expected.

We’re committed to that absorption.

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.”

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