Judge rules that Tesla sexual harassment suit can proceed in court

A California county court judge ruled Monday that a sexual harassment suit against Tesla can proceed in court, rejecting the automaker’s request for closed-door arbitration, according to Bloomberg.

That means that Tesla must defend itself in open court against claims that female employees face “rampant sexual harassment” at its Fremont, California, factory. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Stephen Kaus denied the automaker’s request in a one-sentence order without explanation, even though the plaintiff in the class-action case signed an arbitration agreement giving up her right to sue.

“The Motion to Compel Arbitration filed by Tesla, Inc. on 02/16/22 is Denied” is all Kaus wrote.

Tesla also faces harassment suits filed by at least six other female employees since late last year alleging that they were subjected to discrimination, catcalling, unwanted advances and physical contact at work.

Jessica Barraza, the plaintiff in Barraza v. Tesla, 21-cv-2714, Superior Court of California, Alameda County (Oakland), alleges that supervisors failed to take action after she reported working under “nightmarish” conditions as a night-shift employee, with co-workers and supervisors repeatedly making lewd comments and gestures to her.

The complaint, filed in Alameda County Superior Court in November, stated, “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.”

Meanwhile, Tesla has also faced a spate of lawsuits alleging racial discrimination at its Fremont factory. In February, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit against the automaker in state court alleging that it had received “hundreds of complaints from workers” and found evidence that the California factory is a “segregated workplace where black workers are subjected to racial slurs and discriminated against in job assignments, discipline, pay and promotion creating a hostile work environment.”

CEO Elon Musk has been vocal in his complaints against the state, moving Tesla’s headquarters from Fremont to Austin, Texas, last year, after filing a lawsuit against Alameda County due to COVID restrictions that forced the automaker to shutter its Fremont plant.

“Frankly, this is the final straw,” Musk tweeted. “Tesla will now move its HQ and future programs to Texas/Nevada immediately. If we even retain Fremont manufacturing activity at all, it will be dependent on how Tesla is treated in the future. Tesla is the last carmaker left in CA.”