Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

When Others Harass, Now Managers Lose Pay

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

When Others Harass, Now Managers Lose Pay

Article excerpt

Supervisors across America take note: How well you promote and enforce your company's sexual-harassment policy could soon impact whether you get that next raise or promotion.

This tough new standard of evaluating supervisors' rigor on harassment is something Ford Motor Co. agreed to as part of its $7.5 million sexual-harassment settlement with federal regulators in Chicago this week. And experts say it will soon become standard practice at most US firms.

The plan is the latest in a new wave of efforts by the courts and government agencies to ensure that harassment policies don't languish unread in employee handbooks - that they're in use everywhere from the corporate suite to the assembly-line floor. "The bottom line for companies is if your supervisors support the policy then it will work, but if not, chances are it won't," says Jon Zimring, who handles harassment law at the firm Duane, Morris & Heckscher in Chicago. And having a policy that doesn't work can cost employers big.

Ford had an antiharassment policy. But it will pay $7.5 million in damages, and spend about $10 million more on training, because 19 women at two Chicago-area plants complained to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), saying male workers routinely used sexually degrading names for them, put explicit materials in the workplace, and even groped some of the women. Furthermore, the EEOC said some managers threatened to fire the women who complained.

The settlement is the fourth-largest of its kind in US history - and comes just over a year after the biggest settlement, also in the auto industry. Last year, Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America agreed to pay $34 million in harassment claims at its Normal, Ill., plant. Before the complaints against Mitsubishi were filed, it had fired 15 employees on sexual-harassment grounds. But that was not enough. Investigators documented a pattern of harassment - and unwillingness to stop it among supervisors and managers.

"We're continuing to learn what works," says John Rowe, the EEOC's director in Chicago. "And even though senior management tends to be very supportive, the control arm is really the lowest level of management. …

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