Ford employee sues company for sexual, racial harassment at Dearborn plant

Lawsuit alleges higher level management ignored claims

A lawsuit filed in federal court Thursday alleges an employee at the Ford Dearborn Truck Plant was subjected to racism and sexual harassment at work. 

DEARBORN, Mich. - A lawsuit filed in federal court Thursday alleges an employee at the Ford Dearborn Truck Plant was subjected to racism and sexual harassment at work. 

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff, DeAnna Johnson, a black woman, started working for Ford Motor Company in June as a production supervisor at the Dearborn plant. 

Ford Production Supervisor Nicholas Rowan was put in charge of teaching Johnson the job and assessing her performance.

From the outset of Johnson's employment, Rowan allegedly subjected her to unwanted sexual and racial comments. 

On a daily basis, Rowan would repeatedly ask to see Johnson’s breasts, the lawsuit states.  Some of the comments Rowan allegedly made include, "show me those black mountains" and “show me those
chocolate mounds." 

Rowan also allegedly called Johnson his chocolate Jolly Rancher. When she asked him what that meant, he responded that she was a chocolate treat that he wanted to lick and suck, the lawsuit states. 

Rowan also constantly asked Johnson to send him naked pictures of herself, which she ignored, according to the lawsuit.  

On one occasion, Rowan grabbed Johnson’s breast and then apologized for his hand “slipping.”

Rowan is believed to have had sex with numerous women at the plant, many of whom are his subordinates and who rely on him for favorable terms, benefits and conditions of employment, according to the lawsuit. 

Rowan’s sexual relations with various female subordinates is well known to higher management, the lawsuit claims. 

Rowan has allegedly demonstrated extremely violent and disturbing behavior in the workplace, including punching file cabinets.

Because Johnson was fearful of Rowan and his erratic behavior and because she needed her job, she attempted to be pleasant with Rowan.

However, Johnson never participated in lewd talk or responded to Rowan's demands, the lawsuit claims. 

Rowan repeatedly told Johnson he wanted to have sex with her, advising that he did not yet have a black woman in his “collection” and wanted to add Johnson to his “collection,” the lawsuit claims. 

Rowan allegedly had a running “joke” that Johnson had nipple piercings, a false claim, and that he could see them through her shirt.

Rowan took pictures of Johnson without her permission, including pictures of her rear end, the lawsuit said.  

Around October 2018, Johnson told higher level manager Rich Mahoney about Rowan’s constant sexual talk, requests for sex and “sharing” sex pictures on his cell phone, the lawsuit states. 

Mahoney told Johnson she should “just f---k" him (Rowan) and get it over with.”

Rowan also sent Johnson numerous sexually suggestive inappropriate texts, according to the lawsuit. He reportedly sent a photo of himself in his underwear and pictures of his genitals, including a picture of his erect penis.

After receiving the penis picture, Johnson became ill, passed out and sought medical treatment at Beaumont Hospital, where she was kept overnight, the lawsuit stated. 

Johnson was then reportedly off work for a few days.

After Johnson returned to work, she showed the penis picture to Mahoney and told him that Rowan was asking to see her breasts or send him pictures of her breasts every day and that this had to stop, the lawsuit stated. 

Mahoney reportedly remarked, “Oh my god, I’m telling.”

A higher level supervisor, Billy Markovich, asked Johnson how she was doing, and then remarked that he “didn’t give a f---k” about her problems, leaving Johnson distraught and in tears, according to the lawsuit. 

Kelli Felker, manufacturing and labor communications manager of Ford Motor Company, issued the following statement in response to the lawsuit: 

“Ford does not tolerate sexual harassment or discrimination. We take those claims very seriously and investigate them thoroughly. While we have not received this lawsuit, we are aware of the allegations. The plaintiff filed a Human Resources complaint in November 2018. We launched an investigation, immediately suspended the employee that was the subject of the complaint, then fired him in December. Ford also interviewed every supervisor who the plaintiff claims had knowledge of her allegations prior to her Human Resources complaint and found that the only supervisor to whom she complained immediately referred her complaint to Human Resources.”