In the mid-1990s, scandal rocked Mitsubishi, a conglomerate which consists of many autonomous companies, who manufacture myriad products. One of the largest of these corporations under the Mitsubishi name is Mitsubishi Motors, makers of many well-known automobiles, such as the Galant or Eclipse. Its North American branch, Mitsubishi Motors North America, was involved in one of the most significant sexual harassment cases in history. In 1994, 24 women who worked at Mitsubishi’s Normal, Illinois plant accused Mitsubishi of allowing or even fostering a culture of widespread sexual harassment. Then, in 1996, a class-action lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), this time on behalf of around 300 women who worked at the Normal plant. The male workers, who consisted of mainly American employees and managers, and Japanese managers, were accused of groping, verbally lewdly abusing, and even firing air guns between the legs of the female workers. Male employees and managers would go to parties away from work in which sexual acts were performed; the pictures from these parties (such as ones displaying oral sex being performed by employees and other inappropriate content) were set around the Normal plant. After much difficulty both legally and in public relations, Mitsubishi was forced to settle each suit. In the first suit brought by the 29 women, the company agreed to pay out $9.5 million in 1997, while in the second brought by the EEOC, they were forced to give $34 million in 1998. Mitsubishi, despite having had such significant accusations leveled against them, worked diligently to repair their system to avoid further incidents such as these. In the end, after having settled these suits, independent monitors hired by the EEOC to monitor Mitsubishi’s adherence to the settlement and adaptation of its practices lauded the company for its efforts. From the monitors’ final report: "Both Mitsubishi and EEOC should be extremely pleased with the overall progress Mitsubishi has made during the three years of the Consent Decree. While its program...has not been free of problems, we believe Mitsubishi has exhibited a strong commitment to preventing and controlling sexual and sex-based harassment in the workplace. Serious incidents of sexual harassment are rare."
Several of the reasons that this situation occurred were problems in the organization, management, and procedure of the plant and its employees. One clear leadership problem that led to this scandal was the lack of ethical awareness displayed by employees at the plant. It was clear based on certain statements made by plant workers that management did not have what would be considered an acceptably enforced interpretation of what constituted “sexual harassment”, allowing employees to either genuinely misunderstand the definition or play ignorant. “Many workers feel strongly that sexual harassment is not a problem at the plant, and one reason may be that many seem to have a very narrow definition of it. Several workers interviewed outside the factory insisted that harassment was not an issue, only to speak in the next breath of taking visiting Japanese officials to strip bars and of men asking colleagues to expose their breasts.” (Meredith) If management did not make it clear that this behavior was unacceptable, it was their fault that such misunderstanding was allowed to occur. There was an issue of cultural difference that may have caused problems as well. Managers in the plant had been trained in Japan, learning in the context of Japanese culture, where group norms were clearly different. This difference in culture may have contributed to their inappropriate idea of what was acceptable in the workplace in the United States. “Mitsubishi's American managers--all men--got a firsthand glimpse of this male-dominated culture when they spent time in Japan training. After work, the men were routinely taken to clubs where sexually...
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