DETROIT — Ford responded to a devastating newspaper report last week detailing rampant sexual harassment at its two plants in Chicago with an apology from its CEO and a video message to workers saying it wouldn't be tolerated.
"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," CEO Jim Hackett said in an open letter to employees. "More importantly, I promise that we will learn from this and we will do better."
To anyone committing harassment, Hackett said: "We don't want you here, and we will move you out for engaging in any behavior like this."
Hackett said he has "read and reread" The New York Times story published Dec. 21 in which female Ford employees said male co-workers have demanded sexual favors, exposed themselves, groped them and made degrading comments. The Times said the story was based on interviews with more than 70 current and former workers.
That same day, Ford began running a in a continual loop on screens at all 24 of its U.S. manufacturing sites. The video, which a Ford spokeswoman said was created within the last month, features Bruce Hettle, Ford's head of manufacturing and labor affairs, and Jimmy Settles, vice president of the UAW's Ford department.
"Harassment and discrimination undermine the very things we stand for: inclusion, diversity and mutual respect," Settles says in the video. "We are committed to make sure you aren't subject to that behavior in your workplace."
Hackett said he would visit the Chicago plants and speak to employees in January. Chicago Assembly, which makes the hugely profitable Explorer, and the nearby stamping plant have been longtime trouble spots. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reached a $10 million settlement with Ford in August related to sexual and racial harassment allegations at the plants, and a lawsuit filed by plant employees is making its way through the courts.
The automaker, in a separate statement, said it requires anti-harassment training for all hires and has a toll-free number to report violations. It reiterated that employees need to disclose romantic relationships with co-workers. Some of the moves were mandated by the EEOC settlement.
Ford said it has taken a number of steps, beginning two years ago, to curb improper behavior at its Chicago plants, including more than 20,000 hours of mutual-respect training for all employees.
UAW President Dennis Williams last week declined to comment directly on the harassment claims, citing an ongoing investigation. He said the union has a "zero-tolerance" policy when it comes to such behavior.
"Working men and women have to understand that people ought to be able to go to the workplace without being harassed for any reason whatsoever," he said, adding that "several departments" of the union are launching training to educate and combat sexual harassment in the workplace.
Several female workers in 2014 filed suit against Ford, saying male co-workers sexually harassed them. Plaintiff Christie Van said working at the Chicago plant had been "a total nightmare." Another plaintiff, Charmella LeViege, said, "It's not like work; it's more like a meat market."
The Chicago Assembly plant chairman, Coby Millender of Local 551, was suspended for several weeks in connection with one lawsuit but reinstated after the union filed a grievance.