Tesla Sued by Women Workers Over ‘Nightmare Conditions’ and ‘Rampant Sexual Harassment’

Is Tesla synonymous with a toxic workplace? According to certain women employees, the answer is yes. To add to a slew of recent bad press, the environment appears to have gotten even worse at Tesla with new sexual harassment allegations.

Although the EV maker comes across as a cutting-edge, progressive company, women working at Tesla’s Fremont, California, plant claim otherwise. They cite physical and verbal harassment from male supervisors and colleagues, along with a lack of response from the company. 

Allegations of a toxic workplace at Tesla

The Tesla logo on the wet hood of a red passenger car
Tesla logo | Soeren Stache/picture alliance via Getty Images

Tesla’s Fremont facility has faced serious recent allegations, Automotive News reports. The California plant produces where the Model S, Model 3, Model X, and Model Y. Complaints at the plant are notable, but many never make it to court. This is because full-time employees must sign an agreement stating that disputes are handled in closed-door arbitration.

Although many Tesla complaints remain private because of this agreement, there’s been a slew of recent settlements. In May 2021, a former employee was awarded $1 million in a discrimination suit because his supervisor wouldn’t stop using an offensive racial slur. 

Additionally, an elevator operator at the Fremont plant was awarded $137 million in another racial discrimination case. His allegations included daily racial slurs, racist graffiti in his workspace, racist cartoons, and racist comments about Africa by his co-workers. The verdict is believed to be one of the largest involving a single plaintiff in a racial case. 

These aren’t the 1st sexual harassment claims against Tesla

The current sexual harassment charges are not the first against Tesla. In November 2021, Jessica Barraza filed suit against Tesla in California Superior Court. The production associate for the Tesla Model 3 complained she was “dehumanized” by continual comments about her body. In addition, the suit claims she was propositioned via text by her supervisor and was touched inappropriately several times a week.

The lawsuit describes sexual harassment at Tesla as “rampant,” and current and former employees agree with her. The male-dominated production crew is accused of preying on new female employees, engaging in verbal harassment, ranking female co-workers according to their looks, and physical harassment including inappropriate touching. 

Barraza filed her suit through the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. As of this writing, Tesla has yet to file a response to or dispute her claims. 

Why are 6 women suing the EV maker?

The current allegations made by former and current women workers are also regarding a culture of sexual harassment at Tesla, The Verge reports. Six women say lewd comments from male co-workers are common, and they also claim they conceal their bodies with baggy clothing to avoid comments. The women claim that complaints to the company’s human resources department went ignored and the issues unaddressed. 

The women also took offense to a tweet by company leader and founder Elon Musk, which they claim only adds fuel to the fire of a toxic workplace at Tesla. He tweeted the acronym “S3XY,” combining the names of Model S, 3, X, and Y. The plaintiffs claim the attitude of sexual harassment comes from the top down. Their lawyers say the EV maker fails to take allegations of sexual harassment seriously. 

The lawsuit alleges that Tesla’s response so far has been less than satisfactory. According to the plaintiffs, the company didn’t address their male colleagues’ behavior. The women claim management participated in the harassment, so they didn’t feel comfortable reporting it. They also allege they were assigned to a different part of the factory after reporting their complaints. 

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