Several years ago the Mitsubishi auto plant in Normal, Illinois, had a negative reputation. A lawsuit told the story: it alleged that sexual graffiti was written on the fenders of cars being assembled before they passed female production workers, pornographic photos hung on the walls, male workers taunted women, and women who complained were not promoted or perhaps were even fired.
Ultimately, Mitsubishi paid $34 million to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit brought on behalf of 500 workers at the plant. Further, Mitsubishi agreed to pay a multi-million-dollar settlement to African American and Hispanic employees who had claimed racial discrimination during the same time period as the sexual harassment claims. The plant’s image was so bad that people were embarrassed to wear the company colors outside of work.
Productivity was bad as well, and the company headquarters in Japan considered closing the American plant. Rich Gilligan, a former Ford manager, was hired to run the plant and began to change the humiliating and illegal ways its women and racial minority employees were treated.
Over time the plant has moved toward being a solid workplace of equal employment opportunity.
Gilligan set up a department to investigate all employee complaints and to train employees in avoiding illegal discrimination issues. During monitoring for three years, there were 140 discrimination and harassment complaints. Fifty-two of those cases violated the zero tolerance policy and resulted in 8 dismissals, 14 suspensions, and 30 additional disciplinary actions. These actions reinforced the efforts to move the Mitsubishi plant culture toward equal employment.51
The Mitsubishi case illustrates that there are consequences for violating EEO laws. Employers who choose not to deal with violations of EEO laws have paid hundreds of millions of dollars in fines to state and federal governments and in back wages and damages to employees.
Discuss why making changes such as Mitsubishi did is important both legally and for improving HR management with the employees and managers.
Describe how disparate treatment and disparate impact were factors affecting this case.