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Six Women Workers Represented by Vanessa L. Smith, Esq. and Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann LLP File Complaint Against Ford Motor Company Charging Sexual Harassment At Two Chicago Plants.

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Aug. 27, 1998--In a complaint filed in Federal District Court in the Northern District of Illinois, six women who work at either the Chicago Ford Assembly Plant or the Chicago Ford Stamping Plant charge supervisors at every level of management at the two Ford Motor Company plants with condoning and perpetuating sexually harassing work environments. Plaintiffs have retained Chicago attorney Vanessa L. Smith and the New York firm of Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann LLP to represent them in this action.

In the complaint, plaintiffs describe a workplace permeated with offensive references to women, including pornographic posters, calendars and sexually explicit graffiti. Plaintiffs allege that from the beginning of their employment at Ford, they were subjected to factory walls and lockers plastered with explicit posters and "pin-up calendars"; pornographic magazines strewn about in public areas; drawings of nude women and their genitalia on factory and bathroom walls; and sexual graffiti. The plaintiffs claim that pornography and graffiti were present and on display in almost every area of both plants, including on bulletin boards, many of which are locked and accessible only to management; near posted employee work schedules; on the walls in the stairwells; on employee lockers; in the women's restrooms; in the Foremen's office areas; and on the production line itself.

In addition, plaintiffs allege that they and their women co-workers were subjected to a daily barrage of hooting, cat calls, propositions and sexist insults, as well as leers, licking of the lips and whistles directed their way from male co-workers and supervisors. New women employees were referred to as "fresh meat", women were routinely called "c--ts" and comments were made that women were "only good for two things -- cooking in the kitchen and laying in the bed," according to allegations made in the complaint. One plaintiff alleges that she was told by the head of the Ford Labor Relations office on her first day of orientation at the company: "When you go downstairs (on the plant floor), you're on your own. It's a different world down there." Ironically, supervisors responded to women's complaints of the sexual harassment on the assembly line with "That's why I don't let my wife work here."

"This behavior is reprehensible," said Daniel L. Berger, a partner with Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann LLP. "We have decisions by the courts unequivocally banning sexual harassment in the workplace. And yet, with the millennium almost upon us, women still have to resort to the legal system to ensure they are treated with basic dignity and respect in the workplace." "Ford ought to have known better," he added.

The complaint also alleges that despite an EEOC Determination issued in January 25, 1996, which found that women have been subjected to a sexually harassing work environment fostered by nonmanagement and management employees, despite repeated media coverage by radio and television, Ford did virtually nothing to remedy the work environment at the plants. Plaintiffs claim that at least two of the limited number of employee meetings designed to educate employees on sexual harassment issues degenerated to the point where male employees were laughing and mocking the problem of sexual harassment. None of the men were reprimanded about their behavior at the meetings. The complaint also states that women who complained about the sexual harassment were subject to retaliation.

"My experience has been that most employers take their responsibility to create and maintain an harassment free environment very seriously," said Vanessa L. Smith. "Ford's failure to do so, especially after the prior EEOC determination is outrageous."

The complaint is filed as a class action pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by the six named plaintiffs on behalf of themselves and all women employed at either the Ford Assembly Plant or the Ford Stamping Plant at any time between January 15, 1996 and the present. Plaintiffs are seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, compensatory and punitive damages and all appropriate legal and equitable relief.

Vanessa L. Smith is an attorney and employment consultant who counsels Fortune 500 and entrepreneurial companies on a myriad of employment issues including sexual harassment in the workplace. Her practice highlights the importance of proactive education and training in ensuring a productive work environment and preventing unnecessary litigation.

Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann LLP prosecutes class actions, multiplaintiff and other high impact litigation on behalf of employees against employers who violate federal or state employment and anti-discrimination laws. The firm represents diverse clients on a wide range of race, gender, sexual orientation and age discrimination issues, including sexual harassment claims; and "glass ceiling" cases in which otherwise qualified employees are passed over for promotions to managerial or executive positions. The firm recently represented a class of African-American employees in the Texaco Inc. race discrimination class action which was settled for the largest single settlement in the history of employment discrimination litigation.

If you wish to discuss this action, please contact either Vanessa L. Smith at (312) 362-9341 or by E-mail at or Daniel Berger, at Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann LLP at (212) 554-1400 or by E-mail at or visit our web site at

CONTACT: Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann LLP

Ava C. Thorin (212) 554-1429
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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Aug 27, 1998
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