Tesla is hit by six fresh sexual harassment lawsuits from female employees

Six separate women have filed lawsuits against Tesla, claiming the company fostered a culture of sexual harassment, which they compared to a frat house.

In the lawsuits, filed in Alameda County Superior Court on Tuesday, the women allege ‘rampant’ sexual harassment at its facilities – especially the 53 million square foot factory in Fremont, California.  

They claim their male coworkers frequently made lewd comments about their bodies or clothing, touched them intimately and discriminated against them.

Many also claim that when they told their supervisors about the harassment, the supervisor either neglected to act upon it or transferred the women to another work station.

Others said they were too afraid to report the harassment to Human Resources because their supervisors were part of the problem.

‘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 factory facilities to nightmarish conditions of rampant sexual harassment,’ the opening paragraph of the lawsuits says, according to Bloomberg.

‘Tesla’s facilities more resemble a crude, archaic construction site or frat house than a cutting-edge company in the heart of the progressive San Francisco Bay Area.’ 

Many of the sexual harassment complaints come from female workers at Tesla's Fremont, California factory (pictured)

Many of the sexual harassment complaints come from female workers at Tesla’s Fremont, California factory (pictured)

In her lawsuit, the Washington Post reports, Jessica Brooks, who also works at the Fremont factory, claimed the harassment was so extreme that she stacked boxes around her work station to deter men from ogling and whistling at her.

She said she also bought flannel shirts at a thrift store to tie around her waist in an effort to further conceal her backside.

‘I was so tired of the unwanted attention and the males gawking at me, I proceeded to create barriers around me just so I could get some relief,’ she told the Post. 

‘That was something I felt necessary just so I can do my job.’   

Another female employee, Michelle Curran also claimed that within her first few weeks of working at Tesla when she was just 18 years old, her supervisor would tell her ‘that with her “big butt’ he should be an exotic dancer.’

The same supervisor, she claims, also tried to slap her on her backside when she was changing out of the jumpsuit she had to wear when painting the cars.

Curran quit after just two months, she said.

‘I just felt scared and not knowing who to run to,’ she told the Post. ‘Knowing there’s nothing but males around me – not knowing if they might have the same mindset as the supervisor.’

Alisa Blickman, 33, said her supervisor saw her stretching one morning and said “I hear you don’t like to scream loud enough.”

She claims that same supervisor would touch and rub her back, noting that it was common at the Fremont factory, where, she said, women’s body parts were referred to using a number system.

Blickman told the Post she felt afraid to go to Human Resources, and was told she would be transferred to an outdoor work area.

Samira Shepard, meanwhile, said she was left with shame, anxiety and emotional distress from the job she began at the Fremont factory when she was just 19, saying her supervisor once told her male coworkers her nipples were visible through her shirt.

And Alize Brown called her experience a ‘living nightmare,’ telling the Post she began working at Tesla shortly after giving birth when she was 21.

She said a male coworker would often comment on her breastmilk-stained shirts, calling her a ‘cow,’ or saying: ‘Oh I see you’re milking today.’

Brown said she tried complained to a supervisor, who treated it as a joke, and she had to purchase a baggy jumpsuit to avoid his comments.

Later on, she said, the same supervisor told her that her contract would not be renewed.

‘It was horrible,’ she told the Post. ‘I would actually come home and cry because, first of all I just had a baby, then I have to be tortured for 12 hours.

‘It was really hard for me,’ she continued. ‘It’s still kind of hard for me, even after being let go from Tesla.’ 

One of the women suing the company over sexual harassment claims, Eden Mederos, claims the pattern of inappropriate comments would only get worse whenever CEO Elon Musk (pictured) would tweet something derogatory

One of the women suing the company over sexual harassment claims, Eden Mederos, claims the pattern of inappropriate comments would only get worse whenever CEO Elon Musk (pictured) would tweet something derogatory

Another female worker, Eden Mederos, who started working at a Tesla service center in the Los Angeles area in 2016, also claimed that simple acts like eating a banana or using a spoon resulted in men making lewd comparisons.

She said the men would whistle at her and encourage her to show skin. 

The issue only became worse, she claims whenever CEO Elon Musk would tweet something derogatory – a trait the billionaire is known for.

‘When Mr. Musk did this, everyone at the service center would read the tweets,’ her complaint read. ‘The managers and technicians would bring up the tweets, laugh about the, and make their own jokes, riffing on the sexual themes.’

At another time, she said a manager flirted with her and tried to put his arm around her as they drove one of the cars. She said she tried to complain to Human Resources, but faced retaliation and was unable to advance within the company. 

‘When I started at Tesla, Tesla was going to be my career,’ Mederos, 31, told the Post. ‘I wanted to move up in the company – I was proud to work there when I got the job.

‘When I left, I was just devastated.’

David Lowe, a partner at the San Francisco law firm Rudy, Exelrod and Lowe, who is representing the six women in their lawsuits, said he is trying to address ‘a shocking pattern of harassment that exists at Tesla.

‘It is pervasive throughout the workplace, and now we know it’s not just the factory floor in Fremont, but other locations, including the sales centers.’ 

The company has said it takes allegations of sexual harassment seriously and does not tolerate retaliation. 

Mederos said the issues extended beyond just the Fremont factory, but also to its service centers like the one she worked at in Los Angeles

Mederos said the issues extended beyond just the Fremont factory, but also to its service centers like the one she worked at in Los Angeles 

But the company is also facing a seventh sexual harassment lawsuit – by Jessica Barraza, 38, who filed her complaint in California Superior Court last month describing ‘nightmarish conditions’ at the factory in Fremont. 

She said in an interview with the Washington Post that she was just months in to her job as a production associate on the Tesla Model 3 when she began to experience near daily harassment, with colleagues making crude remarks about her body.   

Barraza told the Post that co-workers would regularly remark on her ‘coke bottle figure’ and ‘onion booty,’ as well a make references to her having a ‘fat a**’ and ‘fat a** t***ies.’ 

The suit alleges that a male co-worker once picked her up by her waist, ‘pressing against her torso under her breasts.’  

Her final straw, she said, came on September 28, when a man snuck up behind her and put his leg between her thighs as she clocked in from her lunch break.

‘Oh, my bad,’ he said, chuckling, after she jumped away, according to the lawsuit.

Barraza claims in the suit that she filed complaints with Tesla human resources in September in October, but that the company did not address the alleged harassment.

Barraza said Tesla’s human resources department even disabled its email address for receiving complaints after she tried to raise her issues. 

Tesla has not yet publicly commented on any of the lawsuits. 

The company abolished its public relations department last year and typically does not respond to media requests.

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Written by Bourbiza Mohamed

A technology enthusiast and a passionate writer in the field of information technology, cyber security, and blockchain

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