Ford Plant Not Hiring Hispanic Laborers, Class Suit Alleges

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By Patrick Dorrian

Hispanic applicants were systemically denied line-worker jobs at Ford Motor Co.'s Chicago assembly plant since at least 2013, a lawsuit alleges ( Chaidez v. Ford Motor Co. , N.D. Ill., No. 1:17-cv-03244, class action filed 4/28/17 ).

The bias, based on race or national origin, may be either the result of intentional discrimination or an unintended consequence of Ford’s hiring practices at the plant, a group of seven job applicants allege in the proposed class action. The result is that the Harvey, Ill., facility employs a primarily black workforce “to the overwhelming detriment of Hispanic and/or Latino applicants,” the April 28 complaint states.

Hiring is done mostly through an unemployment office: Ford typically tells existing employees when it will be hiring line workers, and the employees tell interested applicants they know to apply through the unemployment office. While a small percentage of line workers at the plant are Hispanic, since 2013, few if any new hires have been Hispanic, according to the complaint. The seven named plaintiffs each applied and was qualified for work at the facility but was denied a job on one or more occasions.

The lawsuit claims applicants who fill out a form with the Harvey unemployment office are supposed to have their names added to a referral list and then be sent to a third-party consultant for pre-employment testing. The testing includes a basic skills test, drug testing and a background check.

“Either the pre-employment testing creates an impermissibly adverse impact on Hispanics and/or Latinos, or Ford itself is excluding” such workers from the hiring process, the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois states.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission made the first type of alleged discrimination a focus of its strategic enforcement plan for 2017-2021. The agency will target class-based recruitment and hiring practices that discriminate based on a protected status, such as race or national origin. Specifically, the agency is on watch for employers “steering” a group of workers into or away from certain jobs through screening tools or similar practices that have a disproportionate impact based on the protected status, the EEOC said in its October 2016 plan.

Union Chair Behind Intentional Bias?

The discrimination, if intentional, has been carried out through a scheme put in place by Allan Millender, the United Auto Workers’ plant chairman, who is black, the plaintiffs contend.

Ford was or should have been aware of Millender’s biased influence over line worker hiring, according to the lawsuit. The company previously fired Millender following earlier allegations of discrimination but reinstated him under an agreement with the UAW, it asserts.

The automaker benefits from the alleged scheme cooked up by Millender “and his cohorts,” the complaint alleges. Millender’s union standing is enhanced by his influence on hiring, which facilitates collective bargaining that benefits the automaker, the workers charge.

The Harvey unemployment office carried out the scheme in concert with or at the direction of Millender, according to the complaint.

The complaint includes both disparate treatment and disparate impact claims under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Millender and other “unknown persons” are sued individually.

Bizzieri Law Offices LLC represents the proposed class. The firm didn’t respond May 1 to Bloomberg BNA’s request for comment.

A Ford spokesman told Bloomberg BNA May 1 that the company doesn’t discriminate and won’t comment on pending cases.

“While we cannot comment on pending litigation, it is the long-standing policy of Ford Motor Company to not discriminate on the base of race, color, religion, age, sex, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity,” the spokesman said by email.

No attorney had filed an appearance yet for the individual defendants.

The United Auto Workers, which isn’t named as a party to the lawsuit, declined to comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Dorrian in Washington at pdorrian@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Christopher Opfer at copfer@bna.com

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