Six women workers sue Tesla over sexual harassment allegations

Washington (AFP) – Six women on Tuesday sued Tesla, alleging a culture of sexual harassment at the electric carmaker's California plant and other facilities that included unwanted touching, catcalls and retaliation for those who complained.

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The harassment suits -- filed almost a month after two others -- add to the controversies centered on the Fremont factory in the San Francisco Bay area and which include a Black ex-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 argued 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 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 facilities, while one was employed in service centers in southern California.

Musk tweets

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. 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," Blickman's complaint says.

Mederos, who worked in southern California Tesla service centers, said Musk tweets that reference 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 onto this, calling everything 'sexy.'"

This new suit comes after a California jury ruled in October that Tesla should pay a Black ex-employee $137 million in damages for turning a blind eye to racism the man encountered at the Fremont plant.

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

Subsequently, Musk told investors in October that the leading electric vehicle maker is relocating its headquarters to Texas, where it is building a plant.