- Six women sued Tesla on Tuesday, alleging the company failed to stop harassment at its workplace.
- The workers said they encountered verbal harassment, and in some cases, groping.
- Tesla and its CEO, Elon Musk, did not respond to a request for comment.
Six women filed lawsuits against Tesla on Tuesday, each accusing the electric-carmaker of failing to prevent and adequately address “rampant sexual harassment.”
In the six separate lawsuits that were filed in California’s Alameda County Superior Court, five former workers at Tesla’s Fremont Factory and service centers, and one current worker, said that their colleagues or supervisors frequently demonstrated sexist behavior, including catcalling and making lewd comments about women’s bodies, and in some cases, groping. Some of the women said they faced retaliation when they reported the alleged behavior.
Tesla and its CEO, Elon Musk, did not respond to a request for comment.
The six women and their attorney, David A. Lowe, a partner at Rudy, Exelrod, Zieff & Lowe LLP, say Tesla broke the law, specifically the Fair Employment and Housing Act, by failing to prevent the alleged sexual harassment and retaliation against some of the employees. The women are seeking compensation and damages, declaratory and injunctive relief, and attorneys’ fees.
Four of the women said they reported incidents of derogatory language or groping to human resources or a supervisor, while the other two did not because they alleged their supervisors participated in the harassment. Five of the women characterized the sexual harassment as “nightmarish.” All six women said they did not feel Tesla adequately addressed the issues, according to the lawsuits.
Five of the women said they took steps to avoid and discourage harassment by wearing baggy clothes, sweaters, or tying flannel shirts around their waists. Eden Mederos, a former worker at a Tesla service center in Los Angeles, said she began wearing sweaters to work because technicians “would try to throw coins” down her Tesla-issued work shirt, which she said was low-cut. Another woman at the Fremont Factory, Jessica Brooks, said she stacked boxes around her work station “to discourage men from coming and whistling at and ogling her.”
Brooks said she notified HR but learned that the representative was “already aware of the lengths to which she had gone to stop the harassment.” According to the lawsuit, Brooks was moved to another workstation shortly after reporting the issue to HR.
Four of the women said they faced retaliation when they spoke out about the alleged behavior or rejected the men’s alleged advances.
Alisa Blickman, a former production associate at the Fremont Factory, said her supervisor threatened to send her to “one of the least desirable working areas” when she was “not receptive” to his advances, which included unwanted back rubs “virtually every day that she worked.” In one instance, he whispered in her ear I “hear you don’t like to scream loud enough,” according to the lawsuit.
Similarly, Alize Brown, a Fremont Factory worker in the castings department, said she faced repercussions when she reported a coworker who was “harassing her every day.” She alleged the man called her a “cow” and would say “oh, I see you’re milking today” if her breast milk stained her shirt. Brown said her supervisor “treated it like a joke” when she reported the behavior. As a result, she began requesting jobs away from her workstation. Brown said her employment was terminated “for being away from her work-station too much,” only a few months after reporting the behavior.
Multiple women said harassment targeted other women throughout the Tesla factory or service center, and in some cases involved visitors. Mederos said her supervisor and colleagues talked inappropriately about customers that would come into the shop. She said that, in one instance, a coworker commented on a 12-year-old girl’s breasts. Blickman said her coworkers frequently made sexual comments about other women, including rating them on a scale of one to 10, or describing a sexual act that they would like to do to a female coworker.
Mederos said Musk’s tweets would sometimes factor into coworkers’ language.