Ford Sexual Harassment Suit Advances Despite Prior EEOC Pact

A judge recently ruled that a sexual harassment and discrimination class-action lawsuit against Ford Motor Co. can proceed despite the company's recent settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In an opinion handed down on Oct. 15, U.S. District Judge Elaine E. Bucklo certified the suit as a class action. The court rejected Ford's claim that the recent settlement with the EEOC should prevent the case from proceeding as a class action. The lawsuit potentially involves about 850 women employed at Ford's stamping and assembly plants from Dec. 2, 1993 to present. The action arises out of two separate cases: Warnell et al. v Ford, filed in March, 1998; and Rapier et. al. v Ford filed in August, 1998. The cases have now been consolidated. The suits, brought by 14 women, allege a pattern and practice of sexual harassment and discrimination at the Chicago Assembly Plant and the Ford Stamping Plant over the course of many years. The plaintiffs say the harassment took the form of sexually explicit and derogatory graffiti in public areas of the plants, demeaning comments made to and about women and minorities, and inappropriate physical contact. The plaintiffs claim to have "been subjected to unwanted or unwelcome sexual advances; touching; comments of a sexual nature; lurid, foul, and offensive language; and name calling.

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