Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America Inc. has run amok. Its bullying tactics in response to a sexual-harassment suit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Apr. 9 are beyond the pale. No one knows the merits of the suit yet, but the company's conduct has already sullied its reputation. It is time for top management to begin to act with some degree of decorum and decency.
Rather than calmly follow the prescribed judicial process, Mitsubishi management pressured its employees to participate in a public denunciation of the merits of the suit. Management told workers that the suit threatened their jobs, organized phone banks at the plant for them to call their legislators, and gave a paid holiday to 3,000 workers to picket in front of the EEOC's Chicago office. The company posted sign-up sheets for the march, identifying those who went and those who didn't.
The EEOC lawsuit is one of the largest sexual-harassment cases ever. It alleges a widespread pattern of harassment and intimidation of nearly 500 former and current female employees at the Normal (Ill.) Mitsubishi plant. The company also faces a civil lawsuit filed in 1994 by 29 women who claim they were sexually harassed. Management denies their claims.
What cannot be denied is that the company has created an angry, threatening atmosphere against the plaintiffs. Many of them still work on the line. Responsible companies go out of their way to institute policies that reassure women they will get a fair and safe hearing on any complaint, including one of sexual harassment. Mitsubishi management has failed to do so. Neither the company's Japanese chief executive, nor top executives at its Japanese parent in Tokyo have publicly commented. It is time for them to act responsibly.