After a California judge refused Tesla’s move for arbitration, as originally reported by Bloomberg, a lawsuit accusing the corporation of fostering a workplace with “rampant” sexual harassment will proceed in court. Despite the fact that the woman who brought the case to court signed an arbitration agreement with Tesla, waiving her right to suit, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Stephen Kaus upheld the decision on Monday.
Jessica Barraza filed the complaint last year, alleging that while working as a production associate at Tesla’s Fremont, California facility, she was subjected to catcalling, vulgar comments, and unwanted touching. At least seven additional female employees have filed sexual harassment accusations since then, with several claiming that Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s provocative tweets exacerbated the problem.
Barraza was “ambushed” by Tesla’s arbitration policy, according to a copy of the court paperwork seen by The Verge, since Tesla didn’t offer “any indication that she would have to agree to arbitrate employment disputes and give up her right to a jury trial.” According to Bloomberg, President Joe Biden signed a measure in March ending mandatory arbitration in sexual assault cases, but this case occurred before the bill was brought into law, therefore it does not apply.
Barraza’s attorney, David Lowe, stated in a statement, “This is a triumph for public accountability.” “Tesla will no longer be able to hide behind the closed doors of secret arbitration as a result of this decision.” Instead, Tesla will be judged in a public tribunal by a jury of Ms. Barraza’s peers.”
The decision comes as Musk confronts his own sexual misconduct charges, which were revealed in a recent Insider piece. Musk reportedly exposed himself to a female flight attendant on a business trip and gave her an ultimatum to perform a sexual act. After the attendant complained to management, SpaceX allegedly offered her a $250,000 severance package.
Musk and his staff have flatly disputed the charges, with SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell branding them “false” in a memo to all workers. Musk has called the allegations “completely false.” Musk further claimed that the article was intended to “interfere with the Twitter acquisition,” which he had previously put “on hold” due to a disagreement over how automated accounts should be measured.