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Ford: The High Cost Of Harassment

Despite a $17.5 million settlement, a judge opens the way for a potentially more damaging class action

In early September, Ford Motor Co. reached a $17.5 million deal with the feds to settle ugly sexual harassment allegations at two Chicago-area factories. Civil rights leaders hailed the accord as a model for Corporate America. The carmaker agreed to set aside $7.5 million to compensate victims of harassment and $10 million more to train managers and male workers to stop what women alleged to be a years-long pattern of groping, name-calling, and parties with strippers and prostitutes.

Ford also agreed to triple the number of female supervisors in the plants, where women comprise just 14% of the workforce. And Ford will withhold raises and promotions from managers at any Ford plant who fail to stop harassment from occurring. Such terms are unprecedented, say officials at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the nation's top civil rights agency. Better yet, says EEOC chief Ida L. Castro, Ford agreed to resolve the case without engaging the agency in a costly legal battle.