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Ford worker at Dearborn, Michigan, assembly plant alleges sexual assault, harassment in lawsuit

Ford worker at Dearborn, Michigan, assembly plant alleges sexual assault, harassment in lawsuit

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Ford worker at Dearborn, Michigan, assembly plant alleges sexual assault, harassment in lawsuit

53 seconds: An F-150 is builtWatch as Ford Motor Co. flexes its manufacturing muscles, where a new Ford F-150 rolls off the line every 53 seconds at the Rouge Complex in Dearborn.Ford Motor Company, Detroit Free PressEditor’s note: This story includes disturbing descriptions of sexual assault and harassment allegations.Andrea Busha of Canton, Michigan, isn’t the first in her family to work at Ford Motor Co. but, unlike the generations before her, hopes of retiring from the iconic automaker have been ruined.She filed a lawsuit against Ford on June 12, 2019, alleging sexual assault, harassment, retaliation and a hostile work environment at the company’s assembly plant in Dearborn, Michigan, which builds the bestselling F-150 pickup.She spent eight years happily working on the assembly line until a team leader targeted her with constant, almost daily, “sexual assaults and crude and disgusting statements and propositions,” according to documents filed in Wayne County Circuit Court.Busha is receiving intensive therapy for chronic post-traumatic stress disorder.Now 38, the mother of three said she never wanted to sue Ford. She offered to work any shift at any Ford factory not near a team leader whom she and witnesses said groped and abused her between October 2016 and April 2017 and led to the loss of her job, Busha told the Free Press.A judge ruled on May 26 the case would go to a jury. A hearing on Tuesday has been scheduled to set the trial date. It is expected to begin this fall.Ford challenged the merit of the case and filed a request with the Michigan Court of Appeals on June 15 to have the case tossed, saying the company promptly addressed the harassment claim and thus isn’t liable.But the lawsuit claims the company refused to stop unwelcome sexual communication and conduct based on her gender that created an intimidating, offensive work environment. Busha has “suffered bodily injury, depression, emotional and physical distress, mental and physical anguish, loss of reputation, humiliation and embarrassment,” the lawsuit says.Lisa Vanover, a Ford employee for more than two decades, worked on the chassis line with Busha and said in an affidavit that Barrow grabbed Busha’s breast and slapped her on the bottom when she was bent over working on trucks. Kelli Felker, Ford global manufacturing and labor communications manager, told the Free Press on Thursday that the automaker “does not tolerate sexual harassment or discrimination.”Ford takes claims “very seriously” and investigates them thoroughly, she said. “Upon receiving the complaint, Ford launched an investigation, immediately suspended the accused employee and discharged him at the conclusion of the investigation. The UAW subsequently filed a grievance regarding this individual’s termination, and as a result of the grievance process, the individual returned to work, was demoted and moved to a different location,” Felker said. “Ms. Busha admits that she never saw him again even after the reinstatement. … Ms. Busha repeatedly refused Ford’s offers to return her to work in a position or shift that was consistent with her seniority and the terms of the UAW-Ford collective bargaining agreement.”A key point of disagreement is whether Ford offered a position away from the team leader accused of harassment since his job allows him to drive freely inside the Ford plant. Busha said her doctor and her union reps advised her against returning to work if she couldn’t be assured that the team leader would not be there.’Huge concern’ The lawsuit describes with supporting witness affidavits this:In October 2016, team leader Melvin Barrow learned that Busha was about to be divorced, “which, to Barrow, meant it was open season on Plaintiff for the purpose of satisfying his sexual desires,” the lawsuit said.Barrow, reached by the Free Press on Thursday, said he wanted to respectfully decline comment.He was initially named as a defendant but later dropped because he was “holding up the case” by “evading” the process, said Busha’s lawyer, Jim Fett.The lawsuit said harassment included, but was not limited to: Grabbing Busha’s buttocks, pressing his penis firmly against her buttocks, spanking her buttocks with a metal scuff plate and grabbing her arm and attempting to make Busha feel his penis. Telling Busha how soft she is and that she should let him have her.Retaliating against her for rejecting his crude and vulgar behavior by refusing to let her leave the line to go to the restroom, causing a kidney infection, inciting co-workers against her, manipulating management to assign Busha to undesirable work assignments, in violation of the union contract and safety regulations.Falsely claiming that Busha sent him naked pictures when confronted by the union.Busha reported the harassment verbally to the union on March 29, 2017, and later to Ford labor relations on April 3, 2017, in writing and verbally, and on April 6, 2017, again in writing, according to the lawsuit.First, Ford suspended Busha for approximately seven weeks without pay to do an investigation and then suggested she was “welcoming and encouraging” the behavior, according to the lawsuit. Meanwhile, Burrow was terminated on May 8, 2017, yet Ford agreed on June 22, 2017, to reinstate him, Fett said. However, the reinstatement would not be effective until Jan. 1, 2018, Busha’s lawyer pointed out.After what is described in the lawsuit as a cursory internal investigation, Busha was reinstated to a different area of the Dearborn Truck Plant in July 2017. She was pleased to return to the factory. However, she had to be relocated twice because of retaliation by Barrow’s co-workers, the lawsuit said. In December 2017, Busha attempted to move to the Trim Department because lifting catalytic converters were too heavy and she had lifting restrictions due to her pregnancy, the lawsuit says.But then Ford refused to allow Busha to join that department because that would mean Barrow would have to be reassigned, the lawsuit said. Rather than re-assign Barrow, Ford laid off Busha. She gave birth on July 2, 2018, and in August wrote to the union and Ford management expressing “huge concern” for workplace safety upon her return to work in September. Ford never responded, Busha said.’She would be used as bait’Outlining examples of vindictive behavior, the lawsuit mentions that Barrow targeted a supportive co-worker of Busha by letting the air out of car tires, breaking into a locker, stealing tools, stealing a phone and harassing on social media. Workers filed reports with Ford employee relations, according to the lawsuit.Ford informed Busha through her union that “she would be used as bait to catch Barrow in another inevitable act of harassment when she returned; the harassment would then be used to justify” his termination, the lawsuit says.A doctor determined the scenario caused a PTSD disability for Busha, according to court documents. Ford ordered Busha back to work in May 2019 against her doctor’s orders, so she was faced with not working or working in a setting that may include contact with Barrow.Technically, she was fired, Busha said.”I came back for one day and my psychiatrist put me on medical leave for PTSD and emotionally mentally not being able to work … with Melvin. After being on that medical, they determined that it was a personal issue and I had to return to work with him or be terminated,” she told the Free Press on Thursday. “It has been awful. Something I wish never happened.””Ford provided a great life for my grandparents and my parents,” Busha said. “I fully intended to retire from Ford. Up until this, I thought probably my son would work there someday.”She has worked at Dearborn Truck since 2008 and fought to be reinstated, knowing she has experience doing everything from attaching the catalytic converter and air bags to placing trim pieces and finishing the truck interiors with scuff plates that hide the wires.Union officials from the UAW tried to intervene, saying her safety couldn’t be assured, and their efforts failed, Busha said. The union told her to go home, she said.”I always believed I would be able to work and work safely,” Busha said. “They made it clear to me that wasn’t an option, to work there and be safe. So I was left with no choice but to file a lawsuit. They insisted I had to work with this man or I couldn’t work there.”Busha is suing for economic damages and noneconomic damages for trauma, including anxiety and depression. Her lawyer broke it down this way:Ford was sued in 2019 for race and sex harassment at the Dearborn Truck Plant involving an employee who faced demands for sex and photos of her naked. That case is pending in state court.


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