One day after Elon Musk was announced Time’s Person of the Year (a distinction surely not given due to financial interests on the part of Time’s owner), six women have filed separate suits against Tesla alleging that the company fostered a hostile work environment at its Fremont, California plant and other facilities. This comes one month after former employee Jessica Barraza filed a similar suit and after Erica Cloud came forward to Reuters with similar allegations.
These six women now bring forward new claims that paint a depressing picture of what it was like to work in a Tesla factory, as reported by The Washington Post.
Jessica Brooks, a worker at Tesla’s seat factory, alleges that, on her first day, her supervisor encouraged his subordinates to check out the new girl. Tired of unwanted attention, she stacked boxes around her workplace so she couldn’t be seen and tied flannel shirts around her waist to hide her figure. When she later reported the situation to HR, the department admitted to being aware of the problems — and then sent Brooks to a different part of the factory. Brooks is currently on stress-related leave.
Alisa Blickman shared a horrifying story to the Washington Post where she alleges her supervisor saw her stretching and commented, “I hear you don’t like to scream loud enough.” That supervisor, she claimed in her suit, was also prone to rubbing hands on the small of her back at the start of each shift, whispering sexual comments in her ear.
Blickman said she didn’t feel comfortable speaking to HR because her aggressor was a supervisor — and when she expressed her disinterest in his advances, she was threatened to be sent to a less-desirable, outdoor position.
Michaela Curran’s first job out of high school was at Tesla. Her supervisor told her that with her “big butt” she should be an exotic dancer. He also tried to slap that “big butt” when she was removing a bodysuit required to paint Tesla’s cars. Like Blickman, Curran was afraid to speak to HR. She quit after two months with the company.
Alize Brown started at Tesla as a new mother. She alleges that her colleagues referred to her as a “cow” and commenting that, “Oh, I see you’re milking today” if her breastmilk stained her shirt. He also referred to her body as a “wagon.” She tried to hide her figure in baggy jumpsuits and asked her supervisor for help. Her supervisor, though, was prone to checking out Brown’s body, and she was told later that her contract would not be renewed.
Samira Sheppard alleges that she left her job after emotional distress caused by her colleagues constantly commenting on her body, using phrases like, “Damn, you look good,” “Nice body,” “You look good for being so short,” “I know you look good under there,” and “I know you’d look good outside of work.” Her supervisor, she alleges, also pointed out to her male colleagues to observe Sheppard when her nipples were visible through her shirt due to cold temperatures. She did not know who to turn to for help and ultimately quit.
Eden Mederos, who worked at a service center, alleges that the model names for the cars spelling S3XY and Musk’s constant 69 jokes on Twitter enabled her co-workers to begin referring to everything as “sexy” and overstep boundaries. Her rear end was referred to as “cake” or a “dump truck,” and she was told she should be trying to flirt with customers to secure a rich husband. After she reported this to HR, Mederos alleges that her manager interfered with her advancement at Tesla as retaliation.
Previously, Jessica Barraza alleged that managers and supervisors were aware of the harassment that took place at Tesla and chose to do nothing about it. Erica Cloud leveraged similar accusations against her manager.
Attorney David A. Lowe, Partner at Rudy Exelrod Zieff & Lowe, who represents the women, said that “Elon Musk tweeting a lewd comment about women’s bodies or a taunt toward employees who report misconduct reflects an attitude at the top that enables the pattern of pervasive sexual harassment and retaliation at the heart of these cases.”
The behavior these women describe is horrifying, but the veracity of their claims will be analyzed in court.