A woman has accused Tesla of contributing to an environment where sexual harassment was “rampant” at its factory in Fremont, California, in a new lawsuit.
In an interview with The Washington Post, worker Jessica Barraza accused the company of allowing the situation to unfold.
The lawsuit states the Tesla factory “resembles a . . . frat house.” Barraza is reportedly on doctor-ordered medical leave for post-traumatic stress and anxiety.
Tesla hired Barraza as a production associate in 2018. In the lawsuit, she claims male colleagues subjected her to harassment, which included catcalling and inappropriate physical touching, and that superiors knew about and took part in the toxic environment. A human resources complaint did nothing to protect her.
Specifics listed in the complaint include male workers who remarked on Barraza’s “coke bottle” figure, “fat a–” or “onion booty.”
The complaint also states that male workers would “brush up against Ms. Barraza’s backside (including with their groins) or unnecessarily touch her under the pretext of working together in close quarters.”
Barraza’s complaint was filed in California Superior Court, but Tesla CEO and SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk is not named in the suit. Though Musk is not named, Barraza cited a tweet he wrote in The Washington Post interview that contributed to the toxic culture.
“Am thinking of starting new university: Texas Institute of Technology & Science,” Musk wrote. The acronym would be TITS (a reference to women’s breasts). “It will have epic merch, universally admired,” Musk continued.
“That doesn’t set a good example for the factory — it almost gives it like an … ‘he’s tweeting about it, it has to be OK,’ ” Barraza told The Washington Post. “It’s not fair to myself, to my family, to other women who are working there.”
This is not the first time the Fremont factory has been the site of harassment. In October, Tesla was ordered by a judge to pay $137 million to a former contractor who was subjected to racial harassment.
In 2017, former Tesla engineer AJ Vandermeyden sued Tesla, alleging women were denied promotions and paid less than their male counterparts, then faced retaliation after reaching out to human resources. Tesla fired Vandermeyden months after her claims went public.
“Tesla is responsible for the systemic sexual harassment occurring in its factory,” Barraza’s attorney, David A. Lowe, told The Verge. “We are bringing this case to put a stop to the harassment against Ms. Barraza and her colleagues.”