Following a blockbuster report in the New York Times, outlining years of sexual harassment at two Ford plants in Chicago, the automaker’s CEO issued an extensive apology on Thursday and said “we will learn from this and we will do better.”
The Times investigation was based on interviews with more than 70 current and former workers at the Chicago Assembly and Chicago stamping plants. The employees laid out jarring accounts of sexual harassment and retaliation. Jim Hackett, Ford’s CEO, said in an open letter Thursday their accounts were “gut wrenching.”
“Sexual harassment has been the center of a needed conversation confronting the haunting issues that one would hope had improved as the world gets smarter, more incisive and accountable,” Hackett wrote in the letter. “Most importantly, I want to take this opportunity to say that I am sorry for any instance where a colleague was subjected to harassment or discriminatory conduct.”
“On behalf of myself and the employees of Ford Motor Company, who condemn such behavior and regret any harassment as much as I do, I apologize,” he added.
The Times’ investigation—which you can read here—found that numerous women reported little to no help from union officials or male colleagues. This led them to stay quiet, as they didn’t want to risk losing their job.
Hackett says he’s going to visit the plants after the holidays to speak directly to employees. One employee who works at Ford, Gwajuana Gray, told the Times that she welcomed the apology but wants to see if Ford actually takes action against some of the male employees at her plant.
“It has to be a different environment, a different culture,” Gray told the Times. “I hate for people to be fired, but if they won’t change, or they think they are untouchable, they have to be fired.”