Six women workers sue Tesla over harassment allegations

Five cases deal with conditions at a factory in San Francisco, where a black former worker was awarded $137m over racism

Six women are suing Tesla over sexual harassment allegations, claiming chief executive Elon Musk's tweets encourage a hostile work environment. Reuters
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Six women on Tuesday sued Tesla, alleging a culture of sexual harassment including unwanted touching, catcalls and retaliation for those who complained, at the electric car maker's California plant and other centres.

The harassment suits, filed almost a month after two others, add to the controversies around the Fremont factory in the San Francisco Bay area, which include a black former employee being 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 of the suits claims.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the suits, which in at least one instance said chief executive Elon Musk's explicit or provocative tweets influenced the tone at the workplace.

The six new cases filed on Tuesday in a California court alleged that co-workers or supervisors made sexual propositions to the women, graphically commented about their bodies and, in some cases, inappropriately touched them.

Five of the women in the new cases work or worked in the Fremont factory, 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, her suit charges.

One male co-worker sexually propositioned her, saying plant employees often had sex in the parking lot. She quit after two months.

"Curran saw other women experiencing the same environment and witnesses will testify that they observed the rampant sexual harassment at Tesla," her suit alleges.

The other cases were filed by Jessica Brooks, Samira Sheppard, Eden Mederos, Alize Brown and Alisa Blickman, who alleged in her lawsuit that she faced retaliation for reporting the misconduct.

"She was denied certain privileges and benefits that were afforded to women who did not object to supervisors' sexual advances and flirtations," Ms Blickman's complaint says.

Ms Mederos, who worked in southern California Tesla service centres, said Mr Musk's tweets that referred to sex or drugs inspired laughter and jokes among her co-workers.

"When Tesla launched the Model Y, Elon repeatedly pointed out that when one reads the Tesla Models S, 3, X and Y together, it spells SEXY," her suit said.

"Some of Ms Mederos' co-workers latched on to this, calling everything 'sexy.'"

A California jury ruled in October that Tesla should pay the black former employee $137m in damages for turning a blind eye to racism the man was subjected to at the Fremont plant.

Last year, Mr Musk feuded with authorities over the reopening of the factory amid coronavirus restriction and threatened to move his headquarters out of state.

He then told investors in October that the leading electric vehicle maker was moving its headquarters to Texas, where it is building a plant.

Updated: December 15, 2021, 3:41 AM