Tesla unable to 'hide behind closed doors' in sexual assault case
On Monday, Alameda County Superior Court Judge moved forward with the lawsuit that accuses Tesla of promoting a workplace with “rampant” sexual harassment despite the victim signing an arbitration agreement.
According to reports by Bloomberg, after Tesla's motion for arbitration, a lawsuit that accuses the company of promoting a workplace with “rampant” sexual harassment will continue in court.
The female worker who brought up the case, Jessica Barraza, signed an arbitration agreement at Tesla which terminates her rights to sue, but Alameda County Superior Court Judge Stephen Kaus still went on with the decision on Monday.
Barraza filed the lawsuit last year, claiming she was being catcalled and subject to lewd comments and inappropriate touching while working as a production associate at Tesla’s Fremont, California factory. Seven more female workers at least have since come forward with complaints related to sexual harassment, while some alleged that Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s suggestive tweets only made it worse.
The court documents viewed by The Verge show that Judge Kaus said Barraza was “ambushed” by Tesla’s arbitration policies, as Tesla didn’t give “any indication that she would have to agree to arbitrate employment claims and give up her right to a jury trial.”
Bloomberg points out that President Joe Biden signed in March a bill that ends forced arbitration in sexual assault cases; however, it does not apply since this case began before the bill became law.
David Lowe, Barraza’s attorney, said in a statement that “This is a victory for public accountability,” adding that “Because of this ruling, Tesla will not be able to hide behind the closed doors of confidential arbitration. Instead, Tesla will be judged by a jury of Ms. Barraza’s peers in a public courtroom.”
The ruling comes as Musk himself deals with sexual misconduct allegations, which came to light in a recent Insider report. Musk allegedly exposed himself to a female flight attendant and gave her an ultimatum to perform a sexual act. The attendant was reportedly given a $250,000 severance agreement by SpaceX after complaining to the management.
Musk and his team have fiercely denied the accusations, with SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell sending an email to employees in which he called the allegations “false”. Musk said the accusations are “utterly untrue," claiming that the piece was written to “interfere with the Twitter acquisition,” which he had previously put “on hold” over a dispute related to the measurement of automated accounts.
Tesla accused of racial segregation at factory
A California agency filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against automobile manufacturer Tesla in February, accusing the electric carmaker of racial segregation at its California factory.
"We found evidence that Tesla's Fremont facility is a racially segregated workplace where Black workers are subjected to racial slurs and discriminated against in job assignments, punishment, compensation, and promotion," said Kevin Kish, head of the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
According to the complaint, black workers at the factory were often subjected to profoundly offensive racial slurs and racist jokes from coworkers and superiors. Hundreds of complaints were received by the agency, according to Kish, from personnel at the plant.
"The facts on this case speak for themselves," he said.
A news investigation by the EEOC has come to light, while #Tesla is already in a legal dispute with the #California Department of Fair Employment and Housing over alleged racial discrimination and harassment. pic.twitter.com/cPwi6dTKGj— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) April 19, 2022
Tesla had stated before the filing, stating that it "opposes all types of discrimination and harassment" and that it is committed to providing "a workplace that is safe, courteous, fair, and inclusive."
However, extracts from the agency's case, which was unsealed and filed in a California court, present a completely different picture.