A Model 3 overnight assembly line worker in Tesla’s (TSLA) Fremont factory says in a lawsuit filed in California state court Thursday that she’s endured near daily offenses of verbal and physical sexual harassment during her three years working for the electric vehicle manufacturer.
Jessica Barraza, 38, a married mother of two, wants her lawsuit to end the factory’s alleged culture of catcalls and unwelcome groping that she and other employees say they endure at work, her attorney David Lowe told Yahoo Finance Live on Friday.
“Quite simply, the goal is to put a stop to the sexual harassment that is rampant at Tesla, that she experienced, and other women have come forward to say they experienced,” Lowe said.
According to Barraza’s lawsuit, despite her complaints to her supervisors, Tesla failed to stop co-workers from touching her without her consent and from making sexually explicit comments about her body. Instead, Tesla moved her to another location each time she complained to her managers, according to the complaint, which includes claims that the company violated anti- harassment, discrimination, and retaliation laws.
Unauthorized contact from male workers, the suit says, included brushing their hand or groin up against her backside and lifting her up by her torso beneath her breasts. One male co-worker allegedly positioned his leg between her legs while she was clocking in for work. A female co-worker allegedly used her hands to touch the small of her back while remarking on her butt.
“She just wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of vile, vulgar, catcalls she experienced, along with the groping until she just couldn’t take it anymore,” Lowe said.
Co-workers and supervisors also subjected Barraza to offensive comments and explicit propositions for sex, the suit claims. In addition, Barraza was allegedly reassigned by a supervisor who referred to her and other female Tesla workers as b****es, to work alongside a male co-worker who was known to have a crush on her.
As a result of the harassment, Lowe said, his client was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and prescribed medication for anxiety.
While the allegations could be damning if they’re true, Barraza faces the difficulty of getting her lawsuit into a court of law. That’s because she, like millions of other U.S. workers, signed an agreement to arbitrate workplace disputes.
“It’s really become an unfortunate common practice among major employers to try to shunt these cases into a private arbitration to avoid public accountability,” Lowe said.
He believes Tesla’s agreement with Barraza will fail under legal scrutiny because of a double standard that allows Tesla to sue an employee in court under certain circumstances.
“Our position is this was an intentional attempt to enforce an illegal agreement, and we’re not going to stand for that,” Lowe said. “This case belongs in court.”
Yahoo Finance requested a comment from Tesla and did not receive a response before publication.
Alexis Keenan is a legal reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow Alexis on Twitter @alexiskweed.
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