A Tesla factory employee sued the automaker in a California court Thursday.
According to the complaint, company supervisors failed to take action when Jessica Barraza approached them, alleging “nightmarish conditions” where she suffered near-constant physical touching, catcalling and other lewd comments. She noted in an interview with The Washington Post that coworkers fostered a toxic environment at Tesla, engaging in “rampant sexual harassment”.
Barraza and other employees describe a situation wherein HR rarely handles internal disputes, and the details of widespread harassment rarely come to light, especially through lawsuits such as the one she filed in an Oakland court this week. The factory floor, she says, “more resembles a crude, archaic construction site or frat house than a cutting-edge company in the heart of the progressive San Francisco Bay area.” What’s more, she says that sort of culture culminated from the top down, pointing to CEO Elon Musk’s recent tweet: “Am thinking of starting a new university: Texas Institute of Technology and Science” (emphasis added to highlight the ‘TITS’ acronym).
“She is not the same person she used to be”
The lawsuit goes on to illustrate Barraza’s current condition brought about by the alleged harassment. After three years of such behavior, she “is afraid to return to work knowing that her body could be violated at any time with no repercussions,” the complaint notes. “She is on medication and in therapy, and she is not the same person she used to be.”
California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act is the basis for her lawsuit, as her attorneys cite the company’s failure to prevent sexual harassment under the law as grounds to pursue a judgment for damages. The behavior of some male Tesla employees, Barraza states, compelled women being harassed to take extended leaves of absence or quit working for the automaker entirely. During 2020, the state’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing received 31 complaints against Tesla claiming discrimination based on race, age, gender identity, disability or pregnancy, per public records. While the agency shut down some complaints based on insufficient evidence, it sent out “right-to-sue” letters in most cases.
At this point, Tesla has made no official comment on the lawsuit, and does not currently have a public relations department through which it can communicate with the press (or the press can seek official comments). This is not the first time this year the company has faced legal trouble, either. This case comes on the heels of a $137 million judgment against Tesla, in which a worker argued pervasive racism at the Fremont plant — a decision the company is currently appealing.
Rivian also faces similar allegations in a recent lawsuit, which you can learn more about below: