Six women sued Tesla on Tuesday, alleging a culture of sexual harassment at the electric vehicle (EV) maker’s California plant and other facilities that included unwanted touching, catcalls and retaliation for those who complained.
The lawsuits – filed within a month of two others – add to the controversies centred on the Fremont factory in the San Francisco Bay area. They include the case of an African-American former employee who was awarded $137 million in a racism case.
“Tesla’s factory floor more resembles a crude, archaic construction site or frat house than a cutting-edge company in the heart of the progressive San Francisco Bay area,” one suit claims.
Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the complaints, which in at least one instance argued that CEO Elon Musk’s explicit or provocative tweets influenced the tone at the workplace.
The six separate new suits filed Tuesday in a California court include five women who work or worked in the Fremont factory facilities, while one was employed in service centres in southern California.
Michala Curran was 18 when she started her job at the Fremont plant and within weeks, her supervisor and co-workers were making explicit comments to her face about her body.
One male co-worker sexually propositioned her, saying plant employees often had sex in the parking lot. “After nearly two months of being sexualised at her first job out of high school, she could not take it anymore and decided to quit,” her suit said.
The other cases were filed by Jessica Brooks, Samira Sheppard, Eden Mederos, Alize Brown and Alisa Blickman. The latter alleged in her lawsuit that she faced retaliation for reporting the misconduct.
Co-worker ‘Came to House’
Echoing concerns in the lawsuits, a former engineer from Musk’s SpaceX rocket firm has published an essay alleging she was sexually harassed at work.
“Men from the company found my Instagram account, messaging me to ask me out. One called my phone at 4am. Another co-worker came to my house and insisted on touching me even when I repeatedly requested we stay professional,” Ashley Kosak wrote.
“I reported each incident of sexual harassment I experienced to HR, and nothing was done,” she added.
SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Working From Home
The filings come as a recent survey suggested that incidents of sexual harassment had become less common with working-from-home arrangements.
“The results show that there is a larger fall in offline sexual harassment than online sexual harassment, except for the Philippines where there seem to be a net increase in both,” according to the survey by Milieu Insight.
“Victims most commonly turn to their friends to talk about their experiences of sexual harassment at work and fewer would turn to people in their workplace or the authorities,” the survey found.
“Among those who did not report incidents of workplace sexual harassment, the most common reasons are the belief that no action will be taken, and that the lack of physical evidence will not work in their favour.”
- AFP, with George Russell