On November 3, 2014, four women filed a class action sexual harassment, race discrimination, and retaliation lawsuit against the Ford Motor Company. The women, who worked at the Ford Assembly Plant on 12600 Torrence Avenue in Chicago, Illinois, claim that they were forced to endure a sexually harassing and hostile work environment from multiple bosses and coworkers.
Christy Van, Charmella Leviege, Maria Price, and Helen Allen claim they were subjected to unwelcome and unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, lewd comments and sexual suggestions, unwanted and unwelcome touching and groping, and being subjected to men exposing their genitals and/or showing pictures of their genitals.
According to the complaint, there are hundreds of other women working at the plant who have been subjected to, or who work within, the same hostile working environment in which the four Plaintiffs are employed. At least a dozen women (and perhaps scores more) other than the Named Plaintiffs have allegedly filed EEOC charges and/or filed internal complaints.
Prior to this lawsuit, at least nine people sued Ford for sexual harassment, sex discrimination, race discrimination, assault, battery intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent retention in a case known as Rivera v. Ford Motor Company. In 1997, a total of 14 women filed a class action lawsuit against Ford Motor Company in a case known as Warnell v. Ford Motor Company.
In 1999, the EEOC allegedly attempted to reach a settlement with Ford requiring Ford to pay $17.5 million toward training and to create a fund to compensate victims. The EEOC Conciliation Agreement also subjected Ford to workplace monitoring for a period of 3 years. The EEOC investigated Ford’s Stamping and Assembly Plants in 1994-1995 and again in 1998. As a result of these investigations, the EEOC has allegedly issued findings in the form of a Determination which states: “I have determined that the evidence obtained in the investigation establishes reasonable cause to believe that a class of female employees at Ford’s Chicago area manufacturing facilities, including the Charging Party, has been subjected to sexual harassment by managers and nonmanagers.” In addition to these findings, the EEOC allegedly made similar findings that Ford sexually harassed and discriminated against a class of females on at least 8 other occasions.
The following are some of the allegations that Van, Leviege, Price, and Allen made in their lawsuit complaint:
- Historically, Ford employees have organized parties which have been held both on and off site at the respective plants at which strippers and/or prostitutes were present. During these parties which were attended by both management and hourly employees, various employees engaged in lewd and lascivious behavior, including sexual acts. The videos and photos from prior parties, including visual depictions of strippers, prostitutes, nudity, sex acts and other pornographic material relating to the parties, were frequently distributed and displayed throughout the plants. On numerous occasions various male supervisors and managers have had sexual relations with female employees in their offices.
- Ford has engaged in a practice of intimidation and retaliation which, on information and belief, has had the effect of making additional people more reluctant to come forward with complaints.
- Christie Van, who started working at Ford in December 2006 and was transferred to the Chicago Assembly Plant on or about February 20, 2012, claims that a male co-worker named Kenny who worked in the trim department exposed his penis to her by holding it in his hand with his pants unzipped and told her “Christie, look what you are missing out on.”
- One of Van’s direct supervisors, Willie Forcea, showed her a cell-phone picture he had taken of his penis and told her “you know you want it.”
- Bruce, who worked in Zone A on B Crew regularly referred to Van and other female workers as “bitches”, and frequently touched us like we were his sexual playthings. Bruce regularly rubbed his hands on Van and other similarly situated female co-workers’ backs, shoulders, arms or buttocks. Kenny, who worked in the trim department, has touched Van in a sexually offensive manner.
- Team Leader Eddie Cather stated to Van that he liked that plaintiff is a “black girl with a loose booty.” When he first introduced himself, Cather asked about Van’s ability to perform oral sex. Cather expressed a specific desire to work with “cock-sucking entry level” girls.
- Reiss (a supervisor) asked Van if she wanted to see his penis after she complained to him about Supervisor Willie Forcea. After Van complained to him about sexual harassment, Reiss began to regularly sexually harass Van and request sex from her. Supervisor Reiss invited Van to play “hooky” with him from work, meaning that he wanted plaintiff to take a day off and spend it having sex with him. Van refused. After Van refused Reiss’s overt and perverted request, he started assigning Van to jobs that put her in close contact with him. He then started asking Van out on dates. Van declined his advances. Eventually, Reiss began regularly asking Van if he could lick her body and for sexual favors on a daily basis.
- Bruce from the Skilled Trades Department has sexually harassed Van. Bruce approached her and asked if she “liked to have a good time.” Bruce instructed Van to perform oral sex on him. When Van refused, he offered her $50.00 to give him oral sex while at work. Bruce then invited Van to go home with him after work and engage in a sexual three-way with him and his wife. Despite Van’s pleas for him to stop harassing her, he continued to invite her out on dates and ask if he could come over to plaintiff’s house to have sex.
- Kevin “Red” Marshall, the Ergonomics Manager has made unwanted sexual advances towards Van and many other women. Red Marshall has told Van that he wanted to get her drunk so he could sexually take advantage of her. Marshall said he wanted to “lick up on” her. Marshall regularly engages in these types of conversations with other similarly situated female co-workers and that it makes them feel sexually harassed and uncomfortable.
- Dazman Gray, one of Van’s supervisors and “Team Leader” for Zone B told Van “You should be fucking me.”As he said this, Gray thrust his pelvis towards Van.
- Charmella Leviege claims that male supervisors and co workers, including Buck Owens (“Owens”) have made unwanted sexual comments to her and similarly situated female co-workers, made sexual advances towards Leviege, and inappropriately touched her breasts. On numerous occasions, Owens stated that he wanted to have sex with Leviege. Owens told Leviege “I like to eat pussy” and asked her if he could perform oral sex. Owens frequently questioned Leviege regarding her sexual history and inquired whether she was promiscuous. Owens asked her “When was the last time you had sex.”Owens fondled Leviege’s breasts. Owens pointed out to Leviege about a location up above where Ford employees went to have sex while at work, making her feel extremely angry, humiliated and scared that Owens was going to force her to have sex with him.
- A male co-worker named Brandon frequently spoke to Leviege and other similarly situated women about how he wanted to have sex or engage in sex acts with Leviege and her female co-workers. Brandon asked Leviege about having sex with him and asked her to take part in three-way sex with him, stating “I got a pussy appointment” and “Do you want to get in on it?” Brandon has made statements like this to Leviege in front of plaintiff’s supervisors, including Leviege’s line supervisor, Geraldo “Dre” Harris.
- Leviege complained about Brandon to Harris, a supervisor. Harris laughed and smiled at Brandon, thereby condoning Brandon’s statements and conduct.
- A co-worker Jabari Muse regularly made sexually harassing comments to Leviege and other similarly situated female co-workers. Muse regularly pointed at female co-workers and openly verbalized women that he wanted to have sex with, pointing at whichever woman he was referencing at any given time and making statements such as: “I want to fuck her” and “I want to put a baby in her.”
- Kevin “Red” Marshall and other males speak to females as though they are prostitutes. Ford is aware that Red paid women to have sex with him at work, yet Ford continues to let Red walk from department to department to meet and seduce similarly situated female co-workers. Red uses his supervisory authority to sexually abuse other women or to coerce them into providing sexual favors.
- Leviege has complained to the sexual harassment hotline and to the Personnel Department about being exposed to a sexually harassing and hostile work environment, but Ford has failed to stop and/or remedy this ongoing harassment. Ford has not disciplined or reassigned any males about whom Leviege has complained nor has Ford conducted a thorough or timely investigation of Leviege’s complaints.
- Leviege complained about harassment and discrimination to Ford and Ford’s Labor Relation’s representatives Alex Keweny (“Keweny”) and Natalie Dehringer, but Ford failed to discipline Brandon and failed to remedy the hostile and sexually harassing workplace environment Leviege and other similarly situated women were forced to endure.Leviege also complained to her supervisor Mike Reese.
- Leviege has also complained to her union representative Reggie for help and guidance, but he has also sexually harassed her. Reggie has approached Leviege with open arms for a hug. Reggie grabbed Leviege and forcefully gyrated his crotch against her in a very offensive and sexual way. Leviege complained about this to Ford but Ford failed to discipline Reggie and failed to remedy the hostile and sexually harassing workplace environment she and other similarly situated women were forced to endure.
- Maria Price, who started working for Ford on June 11, 2011, claims that Jabari Muse frequently told Price that he wanted her to “have his baby” and that he was going to “get [Price] pregnant.” Muse told Price that she “owed him” and had to have sex with him because he was a witness to Labor Relations when she complained about prior instances of sexual harassment. Muse requested sex with Price. Muse told Price that he is good at performing oral sex on women and would like to engage in that with Price. Muse told Price that he has a “big dick.” Muse frequently tried to use hand gestures to demonstrate the size of his penis to Price and other similarly situated women by grabbing his penis. Muse tried to seduce Price into having sex with him by telling plaintiff she can quit her job at Ford if she would have his baby because he is rich. When Price refused Muse’s sexual advances and told him that his conduct was offensive and harassing, Muse told her to “stop playing games and fuck me” and “How long are you going to keep playing? Give me some pussy.” Muse has harassed Price by grabbing at Price’s breasts and buttocks and has attempted to kiss her in the workplace. Muse has attempted to reach inside Price’s jumpsuit and grab Price’s breasts. Muse has grabbed and smacked Price’s buttocks. Muse has made offensive and unwelcome comments about various parts of Price’s body including her buttocks. Muse regularly bragged to male co-workers of his sexual conquests with other women and his interest in adding Price and other similarly situated female co-workers to his list of sexual partners. Muse and other male co-workers regularly referred to women as “bitches.” Muse regularly boasted to Price’s co-workers that he was never going to get married because it was his practice to “keep fucking bitches and go on to the next.”
- Pierre Hawkins (“Hawkins”) regularly makes sexually harassing comments to Price and other similarly situated female coworkers. During one of Price’s first encounters with Hawkins, he told her that he had been staring at her body and that “I seen your pussy print. Nice!” Since then, Hawkins has repeatedly commented to Price about her “phat ass” and “nice pussy print” on dozens of subsequent occasions and has told her “I really want to suck the shit out of your pussy.” Hawkins regularly makes similar comments regarding Price’s other similarly situated female coworkers.
- Jeff Tucker (“Tucker”) is a co-worker who regularly makes sexually harassing comments to Price and other similarly situated female co-workers. Tucker discusses his sexual moods in the workplace and openly states in front of Price and other similarly situated female co-workers when he is “feeling horny” and which women he intends to prey on at any given point in time. Tucker has stated his desire to have sexual relations with a female co-worker named Tammy who he refers to as “white Tammy”. He speaks openly and in explicit detail about these sexual fantasies. Tucker also speaks in this way about a co-worker named Tracy who he refers to as “Bitch Tracy.” Tucker openly tells Price and other similarly situated female co-workers that Tracy is “slick” and is his “hoe.”
- Coby Millender is the Building Chairman and sexually harassed Price when she attempted to complain to him about ongoing sexual harassment by other men at Ford. When Price attempted to complain directly to Millender, he invited her to have a romantic lunch with him in his office. He specifically told Price to “bring those pretty lips.” When Price reacted with a look of shock and horror at his invitation, Millender told her that he would transfer her from the A Crew (the most desirable shift) to the C Crew (the least desirable shift) if she refused to comply.
- Helen Allen, who started with Ford in August, 2000 and was transferred to the Chicago Assembly Plant in January, 2012, claims that her male co-workers and supervisors making sexually discriminatory and degrading comments towards me other women, including comments made by Coby Millender, Mike Polk, Tony Amandillo, Dazman Gray, and numerous male co-workers whose names she does not know. Male co-workers and supervisors regularly engaged in telling each other nasty, sexual jokes that were occasionally about me or plaintiff’s female co-workers. They regularly made demeaning statements towards women or about women, including referring to women as “bitches” and “hoes.” They regularly talk about Allen’s and similarly situated female co-workers’ “big coochies”, “fat asses”, “titties”, and “pussies.” They brag to each other about the size of their “dicks.”
- Allen complained about unwanted, offensive sexual discussions in the workplace to her supervisor Fred Jones, but Fred Jones told her that he had no intention of doing anything to stop ongoing sexual harassment at Ford. Allen complained about unwanted, offensive sexual discussion in the workplace and about Fred Jones’ refusal to do anything about it to Ford’s sexual harassment hotline and to Labor Relations. Allen complained about pornography, the buying, selling and trading of pornography, and about the violence that is occurring as a result of unwanted, offensive sexually harassing conduct to supervisor Fred Jones, to Ford’s sexual harassment hotline and to Labor Relations to no avail.
- Allen has been subjected to numerous male co-workers, including supervisors groping, fondling and touching women in a sexually harassing ways; as a result these women have complained to Allen, creating a further hostile working environment: Supervisors Coby Millender, Erin Strayker, Dazman Gray and Reggie, one of the union representatives regularly engage in inappropriate touching, including inappropriate hugs, and grabbing or caressing women’s arms, shoulders and thighs in ways that make me and similarly situated women feel uncomfortable and sexually harassed. Allen complained about inappropriate and sexually harassing touching towards her and/or similarly situated women to Allen’s supervisor Fred Jones, to Ford’s sexual harassment hotline and to Labor Relations to no avail.
- Co-workers, including supervisors solicit and/or coerce women in the workplace to engage them in unwanted sexual acts. A male electrician has solicited a female co-worker and offered to pay her to have sex with him in the plant or in Ford’s parking lot. Allen and a similarly situated female co-worker were extremely offended when we experienced this solicitation. Managers, including Kevin “Red” Marshall, regularly walk through the plant and attempt to flirtatiously engage women in unwanted requests for dates or romantic rendezvous.
- Male co-workers regularly discuss with each other that they revere Red because he has sex with numerous women in the plant. Allen has complained about the foregoing sexual harassment to her supervisors, managers, through Ford’s hotline and to Labor relations to no avail. Allen was uncomfortable complaining to many of plaintiff’s supervisors about sexual harassment, including Mike Reese (“Reese”) and Myron Alexander (“Alexander”) because they were also known to have sexually harassed other women.
- After Allen complained about sexual harassment, her male co-workers mocked her complaints by leaving spray-painted and chalk-marked graffiti depicting penises and testicles in her work area and lunch area. Allen’s male co-workers also anonymously left in plaintiff’s work area totems of bananas sticking up in the air and other symbols depicting penises or which are otherwise degrading to Allen and other similarly situated sexually harassed women.
- Christie Van claims that on February 28, 2013 she was assaulted and attacked from behind out of retaliation for complaining about sexual harassment and racial discrimination in the workplace. One of the offenders or an individual on behalf of one of those offenders or on behalf of Ford physically assaulted and attacked Van as she was leaving work. She was thrown down to the ground from behind while walking to her car. Van’s assailant stomped on the middle of her back, told her not to look at his face, told her that she was a “black snitch bitch” for complaining about sexual harassment, and told her that she better never come back to her job at Ford. The assailant threatened Van that he knew where she lived and would kill her if she came back. Van complained to her union and to Labor Relations about this incident but Ford never investigated this incident.
- Van repeatedly complained about an atmosphere of sexual harassment and racial and gender discrimination at Ford. She complained numerous times to Labor Relations and to her Union about inappropriate gestures and remarks by supervisors and co-workers. Van complained that supervisors were inviting her to have sex with them and that she had been groped. One of her supervisors responded by showing her a picture of his genital parts and said, “You know you want it.”
- Salary Labor Supervisor, Terrence McClain intimidated and berated Van for talking about sexual harassment in the workplace with other co-workers and other non-Ford employees outside of the workplace. McClain, in an aggressive manner, told Van: “I don’t know what they did where you came from, but you are at Chicago Assembly now and you need to realize that things are run much differently here. You need to forget the incident that happened and need to let it go. Or else!”
- Labor Relations Specialist, Alex Keweny was present when McClain intimidated and berated and threatened Van but did nothing about it. On subsequent occasions, Keweny reinforced that Van needed to stop complaining as she had been instructed by McClain. Keweny also required Van to continue to work wither her harassers. Mike Reiss, one of Van’s direct supervisors, dismissed her from her work assignment on one or more occasions in retaliation for reporting his sexual harassment and for filing an EEOC charge against him.
- Willie Forcea, one of Van’s direct supervisors assigned her to lower quality job assignments and continued to harass her in a threatening way in retaliation for reporting his sexual harassment and for filing an EEOC charge against him.
- Dazman Gray, one of Van’s direct supervisors and his fiancé, Ashley Lowe, one of Van’s shift supervisors falsely accused Van of violating a safety rule and had her written up and suspended for a day without pay in retaliation for Van complaining that Gray had sexually harassed her the week before.
- The EEOC attempted on at least three occasions to mediate Van’s Charges of Discrimination. When Van refused to accept Ford’s offer, Ford terminated Van’s employment effective May 28, 2014 – just days after the EEOC’s most recent attempt at mediating this matter proved unsuccessful. Van was forced to take a grievance of her termination and Ford’s refusal to return her to work to arbitration. The arbitrator ruled in Van’s favor after a hearing on the merits.
- Leviege claims that Ford retaliated against her by repeatedly disciplining her, sending her home early for the remainder of her shift, denying her overtime opportunities, and reassigning her to different job assignments that did not match her medical restrictions. Ford’s retaliatory acts deprived her of the same financial opportunities Ford offers to other employees who do not complain about sexual harassment or racial discrimination.
- Price claims that male supervisors have tried to put an end to her complaining about sexual harassment at Ford and have subjected her to materially adverse employment actions, including writing her up and suspending her without pay based on false accusations. Supervisor Alex Curry told Price after she complained that he and other supervisors at Ford are “tired of hearing you name” and are “trying to set you up.” Thereafter, Supervisors retaliated against her. Price was suspended for three days without pay for allegedly being late to work, when she was actually on time for work but was receiving medical attention from a nurse in the medical department at the time her shift began.
- Allen claims that she was retaliated against when it was disclosed to other employees who did not have the need to know that she had made a complaint of discrimination in an effort to further humiliate and ostracize her. After Allen complained, Labor Relations representative Natalie Dehrenger held a meeting with her male co-workers in which she “outed” Allen or in which she allowed others to “out” Allen as the complainer to all of her sexually harassing male co-workers.
- Subsequently, Coby Millender told approximately 200 of plaintiff’s union members that Allen was the complainer who had “filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Ford.” After these two incidents in which both Ford and the Union Chairperson (who was one of the complained-of sexual harassers) disclosed Allen as being the “complainer”, she experienced numerous anonymous acts of vandalism in her work area and lunch area depicting penises/phalluses and testicles, all meant to mock her and make her feel even more harassed and humiliated. After she complained to Ford, Jim Larese, the head of the plant told his immediate staff to “be careful around Helen because she’s filing a lawsuit against Ford.”
This is a report on a civil lawsuit filed at the U.S. District Court. The details in this report come from an original complaint filed by a plaintiff. Please note that a complaint represents an accusation by a private individual, not the government. It is not an indication of guilt, and it represents only one side of the story.