Tesla hit with new sexual harassment lawsuit alleging the company operates like a 'frat house'

Tesla hit with new sexual harassment lawsuit alleging the company operates like a 'frat house'
Associated Press
  • A Tesla factory worker filed a lawsuit against the company on Thursday, alleging sexual harassment.
  • The worker said she was harassed verbally, as well as touched without her permission.

A Tesla factory worker alleges in a new lawsuit that female employees at the company face "rampant sexual harassment."

Jessica Barraza, a current worker at Tesla's Fremont, California factory, said Elon Musk's company fosters a "nightmarish" work culture, according to the suit filed Thursday. In court documents, Barraza, who works the night shift, said she was continually subjected to sexual harassment from co-workers and supervisors in the form of lewd comments and unsolicited physical touch.

"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," the lawsuit, filed in Alameda County, said. "The pervasive culture of sexual harassment, which includes a daily barrage of sexist language and behavior, including frequent groping on the factory floor, is known to supervisors and managers and often perpetrated by them."

According to Barraza's suit, she endured harassment for three years and repeatedly reported the issues to Tesla's human resources team to no avail. "As far as Ms. Barraza was aware, Tesla did nothing to investigate or address the event," the lawsuit says.

She and her lawyers say Tesla broke the law by failing to prevent sexual harassment at the plant, despite knowledge of the incidents.


Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.

Barraza said in the lawsuit that co-workers often shouted derogatory terms at her on the factory floor and when she would walk to her car, describing her as having a "Coke bottle figure" or an "onion booty." The lawsuit said several of Barraza's superiors also propositioned her for sex on multiple occasions.

The 38-year-old detailed several instances when co-workers touched her backside without permission, including when a male co-worker stuck his leg between her thighs. The incidents caused Barraza to feel unsafe at the factory and spawned frequent panic attacks, according to the lawsuit.

"She is afraid to return to work knowing that her body could be violated at any time with no repercussions," the complaint said. "She is now afraid to be alone in public spaces around men she does not know. Her doctor has taken her off work, she is on medication and in therapy, and she is not the same person she used to be."

Attorneys are seeking compensation for Barraza along with a court injunction to stop harassment at the factory.


Barraza says the lawsuit is an effort to protect herself and female colleagues from future harassment. She told The Washington Post that CEO Elon Musk has helped breed a toxic workplace, referencing a recent tweet from Musk in which he said he planned to start a "Texas Institute of Technology & Science," dubbing it "TITS."

"That doesn't set a good example for the factory — it almost gives it like … 'he's tweeting about it, it has to be OK,'" she told The Post. "It's not fair to myself, to my family to other women who are working there."

Musk did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Post said three current and former Tesla workers at the Fremont factory confirmed several of Barraza's accounts and also witnessed or experienced sexual harassment at the site.

Barraza is not the only worker that has taken issue with Tesla's company culture. Last month, a court ordered Tesla to pay nearly $137 million to an employee after a federal court found an employee at the Fremont plant had been subjected to racist abuse and discrimination. Tesla is in the process of challenging the verdict.