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June 25, 2001
Managers Sue Ford Over Hiring Quotas
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uman resources manager at Ford Motor Co.'s finance arm has sued the auto maker, accusing it of engaging in a widespread pattern of discrimination against white males.

The manager, John H. Kovacs, who worked in a key human resources post for Ford Credit, has included dozens of internal memos, meeting minutes, and lists of internal candidates for promotions to support his claims, according to the Detroit News.

Kovacs alleges in the suit - filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit - that he was unfairly passed over for several promotions. Filing a letter of complaint to Ford Chairman William Clay Ford Jr. only brought him a paid suspension, he adds.

Kovacs "had a bird's-eye view of the discrimination at Ford and has the documents to prove it," said his lawyer, James Fett.

On the same day Kovacs filed his suit, Guy Bertram, a 49-year-old Ford management employee, filed a suit in federal court claiming he was the victim of such discrimination. He says he was passed over for promotion several times because he is a white male.

Ford spokeswoman Anne Gattari told the Detroit News on Thursday that company lawyers had not yet reviewed the suits, but she said Ford does not intentionally discriminate against any employees.

"Our employment decisions are based on talent and merit and on potential," she said. "We don't condone the use of race or age or gender in employment decisions."

The suits come as Ford grapples with an employee backlash over a ranking policy implemented last year by Chairman Jacques Nasser.

Under the plan, Ford's 18,000 top managers are ranked against their peers. This year, 5 percent of the managers will receive C grades, which means no bonus or raise. Two consecutive C ratings is grounds for termination.

Ford already faces two class-action lawsuits claiming the forced-ranking program discriminates against older workers. One of the suits - filed by Fett - further claims the ranking system specifically targets white males for poor reviews, so that it serves the additional purpose of achieving aggressive diversity goals.

Among Kovacs' claims, according to the newspaper:

  • Women and minorities are routinely promoted or hired over more qualified white males.

  • Bonuses for Ford executives are tied in part to hiring and promoting more women and minorities.

  • Ford Credit internal documents - included in the lawsuit - cite job openings and state "diversity candidate preferred" or "female candidate preferred."

  • Ford Credit employees chosen as candidates for "stretch" promotions - where the candidate needs some mentoring and assistance to handle a new post - were exclusively women and minorities. The lawsuit includes copies of several lists of stretch candidates, noting each employee's race or gender.

  • In November 2000, internal Ford documents show, Ford Credit directed HR managers to delay the hiring or promoting of all white males through the end of the year because certain executives were in jeopardy of losing their bonuses.

To view the Detroit News story, click here.

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