A California judge ruled that the sexual harassment case against Tesla can continue in court, despite the fact that the worker who brought the case had previously signed an arbitration agreement giving up her right to sue.
President Joe Biden in March signed into federal law a ban preventing employers from forcing sexual harassment cases into arbitration, but as Bloomberg noted, the law doesn't apply to arbitration agreements signed before it took effect. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Stephen Kaus on Monday denied Tesla's request to bring the case to arbitration, though he didn't provide a reason.
The proposed class-action complaint filed by former Tesla night-shift worker Jessica Barraza in November alleges that female employees experience “rampant sexual harassment” in its Fremont, Calif., factory. She described her experience working in the factory as “nightmarish,” and claimed she experienced repeated inappropriate comments with no help from supervisors or the company's human resources department.
Barraza's case is one of at least seven lawsuits that female employees at Tesla have filed alleging sexual harassment.
The allegations of sexual harassment at Tesla are timely, given that allegations accusing Elon Musk of sexual misconduct recently came to light. A former SpaceX flight attendant accused Musk of exposing himself to her and touching her inappropriately, Business Insider reported. Musk has denied the claims, and SpaceX COO and President Gwynne Shotwell told SpaceX employees in an email last week that she believes the allegations are false.
Tesla is also facing allegations of racial discrimination, with complaints alleging that the Fremont factory is a "racially segregated workplace." The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing sued Tesla in February for complaints that the company's Black workers were "subjected to racial slurs" and discriminated against in job assignments, pay and other areas of work. In April, Tesla asked a judge to delay the lawsuit for 120 days.