A lawsuit accusing Tesla of fostering a workplace with “rampant” sexual harassment will continue in court after a California judge dismisses the company’s arbitration request, as first reported by Bloomberg† Although the female employee who brought the case forward signed an arbitration agreement with Tesla, terminating her rights to sue, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Stephen Kaus went ahead with the decision Monday.
Jessica Barraza filed the lawsuit last year, alleging she was subject to catcalling, lewd comments and inappropriate touching while working as a production worker at Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California. Since then, at least seven female employees have filed sexual harassment complaints, with some arguing that Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s suggestive tweets only made things worse.
In a copy of the court documents viewed by The edge, Judge Kaus said Barraza was “ambushed” by Tesla’s arbitration policy, as Tesla “gave no indication that she should agree to arbitration claims and waive her right to a jury trial.” if Bloomberg points out that President Joe Biden signed a bill in March that would end forced arbitration in sexual assault cases, but because the case started before the bill became law, it doesn’t apply.
“This is a victory for public accountability,” Barraza’s attorney David Lowe said in a statement† “This ruling prevents Tesla from hiding behind the closed doors of confidential arbitration. Instead, Tesla will be judged by a jury of Mrs. Barraza’s colleagues in a public courtroom.”
The ruling comes as Musk himself faces allegations of sexual misconduct, which came to light in a recent report from Insider† While on a business flight, Musk allegedly exposed herself to a female flight attendant and gave her an ultimatum to perform a sexual act. SpaceX reportedly gave the attendant a $250,000 severance package after filing the complaint with management.
Musk and his team have vehemently denied the allegations, with SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell calling the allegations “false” in a company-wide email to employees. Musk himself said the accusations are “completely false”. Musk also has claimed that the piece was written to “disrupt Twitter acquisition,” which he had previously put “on hold” over a dispute over the metering of automated accounts.