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Ford Motor Company’s employee-rating system, which has resulted in two class-action discrimination lawsuits against the auto-manufacturing giant, was changed slightly to allow for more “flexibility,” the company announced yesterday in an internal memo.

As previously reported by WorldNetDaily, Ford uses a type of grading system that evaluates employees on a curve. Called the “Performance Management Process,” the process formerly required management to rate 10 percent of employees as “A,” 80 percent as “B” and 10 percent as “C.” (The policy was altered earlier this year so that only 5 percent of employees must receive “C” grades.) “B” employees were divided into two categories, “B-1″ and “B-2,” with “B-2″ employees considered less productive. All “A” and “B” performers are eligible for bonuses and pay increases, although lower-level “B” employees receive lesser benefits than higher rated employees and are in jeopardy of being downgraded to “C” performer status.

Responding to what Ford President Jacques Nasser calls in the memo “both positive and negative feedback,” new changes for the PMP apply to employees that classify as LL6 and above. That represents the company’s approximate 18,000 management-level employees, said Ford spokesman Nick Sharkey. Ford Motor Co. employs a total of about 345,000 workers, most of whom are represented by labor unions.

WND obtained Nasser’s memo from BlueOvalNews.com – an Internet newssite not affiliated with Ford Motor Co. and dedicated exclusively to information about Ford and its products. The site has closely followed the race-based allegations against Ford. The memo’s content was verified by Sharkey.

The new PMP maintains the three classifications of employees, but gives them new names. Instead of lettered categories, employees will now be labeled “top achiever,” “achiever” and “improvement required.” The updated system no longer forces certain employees into the bottom rung. By removing the requirement that 5 percent of employees subject to the PMP fall into the “C,” or “improvement required” category, management is given more flexibility when conducting performance reviews. Additionally, management now has discretion over “compensation adjustments,” noted Sharkey. No longer will lower-rung employees necessarily be subject to reduction of benefits and automatic disqualification for bonuses.

“Importantly, those employees whose performance requires improvement will continue to receive coaching and counseling to enhance their performance,” Nasser’s notice continues.
“Most components of PMP will continue unchanged.”

Nasser claims positive feedback concerning the 18-month-old program “has focused on the strong emphasis on setting and meeting clear objectives and on coaching and counseling to inspire outstanding performance throughout our team,” he wrote in the memo. “The negative feedback has centered around what was viewed as an inflexible system by some, and as discriminatory by a few others.”

Those “few others” have filed class action lawsuits against Ford, alleging age, race and gender discrimination. According to one of the complaints – filed in the Wayne County state trial court last February by James K. Fett of Fett & Linderman in Flint, Mich. – top-level Ford executives have openly advocated eliminating older white males from its work force.

“Consideration of race and gender in employment decisions to benefit minorities and females and to disadvantage white males is standard operating procedure” at Ford, the complaint states.

The controversy began when Nasser informed shareholders on May 13, 1999, that they could “expect to see accelerated change” in the “diversity of our employees.” That change has been implemented, and at breakneck speed. Plaintiffs of the class-action suit allege they are being fired based on skin color, age and gender – not because of job performance. And Ford executives have made controversial statements supporting the plaintiffs’ claim. Several such comments are listed in the complaint, including one from the company president.

“I do not like the sea of white faces in the audience, and FoMoCo must ensure that in the future, the company reflects the broad spectrum of Ford’s customers,” said Nasser in a videotaped address to top executives shown at diversity training seminars.

Yet in his memo to employees yesterday announcing the new PMP changes, Nasser claims the system “has nothing to do with age or diversity. It has everything to do with inspiring the best performance of everyone on the management team. That is why I personally believe in the most important elements of PMP – rewarding top performance, coaching for those that aren’t achieving at a strong level, and overall improving the performance of our team at all levels.”

He continued, “I believe that performance assessment and compensation systems that don’t do this are completely ineffective and let people languish for years not knowing where they stand career-wise. In many cases, they try to improve their performance after it is too late. PMP is the right leadership development plan for Ford Motor Company.”

More than 30 middle-aged white men found out exactly where they stood when they were fired. The men have filed a class action against Ford, alleging the PMP “was designed to, or in the alternative, has had the effect of, driving older white males from the [Ford] workforce. As a result of Defendant’s practice and policy of discriminating against older white males, Plaintiffs have been denied employment benefits and opportunities afforded to minorities and females.”

Fett has set up a website with details about joining the class-action suit. The class is defined as all Ford Motor Co. salaried employees subject to the company’s graded evaluation system who are older white males and received a B-2 or lower performance evaluation in the year 2000.

The second class-action lawsuit Ford faces was filed by at least nine plaintiffs who allege only age discrimination. That lawsuit also claims the graded evaluation system as a ploy to eliminate certain employees.

Related stories:

Ford’s controversial diversity campaign

Lawsuit over ‘diversity’ hiring

The man who kills quotas

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