Tesla factory employee alleges ‘rampant sexual harassment’ in lawsuit

November 27, 2021

Just a month after Tesla was hit with a $137 million punitive damage verdict for racial harassment, the company now has been accused of sexual harassment in a lawsuit filed in California state court.

The lawsuit by a female factory worker describes a culture of sexual comments, groping and extremely troubling behaviors toward women with alleged notice of the behaviors to multiple levels of supervision.

“Although Tesla publicly claims that it fosters a safe and respectful environment for its workers, the truth is that for years Tesla has subjected women working in its Fremont [Calif.] plant to nightmarish conditions of rampant sexual harassment,” the female worker said in the lawsuit.

The 38-year-old mother of two who works nights at the Tesla plant characterizes the factory floor as akin to a “crude, archaic construction site or a frat house.”

She alleges that the “pervasive culture of sexual harassment, which includes a daily barrage of sexist language and behavior, including frequent groping on the factory floor, is known to supervisors and managers and often perpetrated by them.”

Male co-workers, she said, made comments about her breasts and body, while her supervisor made derogatory comments about her and other female workers. She claims another manager propositioned her via text message, and another flirted with her and told her he controlled her career prospects.

She also described men rubbing against her with their groins, and touching her under the pretext of working together in close quarters, according to the lawsuit.

The female worker claims to have lodged multiple complaints to management and human resources but received no assistance. The entire ordeal has caused her extreme emotional distress, she claims.

She said she was “forced to endure this atrocious and illegal behavior for years until she could not take it anymore,” and that she was “bringing this case to put a stop to the system of sexual harassment that plagues her and other women at Tesla.”

This case represents a rare employment lawsuit filed against the company, in part because most Tesla employees must sign arbitration clauses that prohibit lawsuits and force disagreements into arbitration. The issue of whether the arbitration agreement is enforceable will also be litigated.

All employers should understand that sexual harassment is happening right now in workplaces. Too often, employers wrongly believe that their culture is special, no one is offended or that people are consenting.

Organizations must:

  • develop a robust policy against harassment — all types;
  • provide avenues to complain — and a lot of them;
  • never require the victim to go directly to the person engaging in the behaviors;
  • train all employees to know what behaviors are not acceptable and where to report violations;
  • train managers to immediately report any complaint brought to their attention or any behaviors of which they are aware that might violate your policy;
  • investigate all complaints, and make sure that anyone charged with investigating allegations has the training and expertise to do so; and
  • immediately stop harassment if the investigation reveals it is occurring. Don’t make excuses or justify the actions. Any conduct of a sexual nature needs to immediately stop.

Company leaders play a key role in setting the expectations and holding those violating the harassment policy accountable.

Enough is enough. We must take immediate action to end harassment.