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The Ford Motor Company and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) settled what the EEOC termed an “egregious” race harassment lawsuit on December 20 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. The lawsuit had alleged various incidents of racially motivated harassment at Ford’s Allen Park, Mich., facility. Entered as a consent decree by Judge Victoria Roberts, the settlement provides $300,000 in monetary relief for charging party Rosemary Mazon, a black woman, and 22 other similarly situated black employees who were allegedly harassed by a Caucasian coworker. The decree also enjoins Ford from participating in any type of conduct that could be considered racially harassing. In addition, Ford has agreed to provide training on diversity and racial harassment. Ford has assured the EEOC that it will take a hard-line approach to complaints of racial harassment and use disciplinary measures sufficient to achieve its goal of eliminating racial harassment in the Allen Park facility. The Commission had charged in its lawsuit that a coworker hung hangman’s nooses on his fork lift; mocked what he considered to be black styles of speech and manner of walking, as a means of harassing Mazon and her black colleagues; and used insulting language aimed at black employees. The alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin and protects employees who complain about such offenses from retaliation. The offending coworker has since been disciplined and has now retired. Adele Rapport, Regional Attorney for the EEOC’s Detroit District Office, said, “Ford has agreed to terms designed to address racial harassment concerns and to prevent racial harassment from occurring at its Allen Park facility. Notably, Ford has agreed to this without costly, protracted litigation. We expect Ford to severely discipline any employee who harasses, threatens or intimidates any black employee at the Allen Park Facility.” “At this point,” Rapport added, “we are particularly concerned about threats and intimidation of employees who assisted and/or participated in these proceedings. We expect that Ford will take immediate action to protect victims and appropriately discipline employees who engage in such conduct. We hope that further EEOC and/or Court intervention will not be necessary. We also hope this result with Ford encourages other employers to review their workplaces to ensure an environment that is free of racial or other forms of illegal harassment.”

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