A California court is allowing a sexual harassment lawsuit against Tesla to move forward. The judge didn’t explain his order but thinks Tesla coerced the worker into agreeing to arbitration instead of court. Instead of closed-door arbitration, the company needs to keep defending itself in court.
Alameda County Superior Court
The judge of the Alameda County Superior Court denied Tesla Inc.’s request to argue the case through arbitration. The judge didn’t give an official reason why he denied the request. The plaintiff agreed to arbitration, but the judge believes the company coerced her into signing it. By signing the arbitration agreement, she lost the right to sue. The judge is allowing her sexual harassment lawsuit to move forward. Tesla Inc. uses mandatory arbitration for employee disputes, and the company tends to win the majority of the cases.
The sexual harassment complaint
The plaintiff filed a sexual harassment complaint in November 2021. She described the Tesla factory as a frat house with a culture of sexual harassment. Tesla Inc. has allegedly been subjecting female workers in the Fremont plant to inappropriate workplace conditions. The alleged sexual harassment includes sexist language and groping on the factory floor. Supervisors and managers have allegedly participated in the known incidents. Tesla is facing lawsuits from at least six other female workers over sexual harassment. Tesla Inc. requested arbitration for the allegations under California’s employment discrimination laws. The claims under state law about labor violations weren’t part of the arbitration agreement.
President Biden signed the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021 on March 3, 2022. The act doesn’t cover any claims filed before its enactment. The plaintiff’s victory allows her lawsuit to continue through the legal system. The judge agrees that the agreement said nothing about the plaintiff waving her right to a jury trial.