Superior Court Judge Rules Against Tesla In Sexual Harassment Case

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In California, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Stephen Kaus has rejected a push by Tesla to move a case alleging consistent sexual harassment at the company into private arbitration. It’s yet another blow to the company, whose CEO, Elon Musk, has recently been engaged in a variety of only increasingly unhinged, high-profile antics.

Because of Kaus’s decision, Tesla’s continued defense of its company environment will have to be in open court. It’s notable, in a broad sense, that Tesla was pushing for closed-door arbitration in this case while Musk expends so much energy trying to publicly cast himself as some kind of hero of free speech. Musk’s free speech push is, of course, essentially just a sham. There’s no widespread conspiracy to silence conservatives on social media platforms to which it would respond, and in a newly revealed past incident, a woman saying Musk sexually harassed her while she worked as a flight attendant aboard one of SpaceX’s corporate jets signed a non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreement in association with a settlement arrangement reached between her and SpaceX. Musk is the founder and CEO of that company, which paid $250,000 to the woman saying she was targeted.

Details of the situation between Musk, SpaceX, and that flight attendant were shared with Insider by a friend of the targeted woman. As for the sexual harassment case against Tesla, Kaus concluded the case could proceed in open court even though a woman who brought it apparently signed an agreement to settle disputes with Tesla through arbitration rather than litigation. President Biden signed a law in March that forbids employers from forcing staff to settle disputes over sexual harassment claims through arbitration, but the measure doesn’t officially cover claims that were brought before its enactment. Kaus didn’t provide reasoning for his decision. Jessica Barraza, who brought the Tesla lawsuit, “said in a proposed class-action complaint that she experienced “nightmarish” conditions as a night-shift worker at Tesla’s Fremont, California, plant,” as Bloomberg recaps. “She said co-workers and supervisors repeatedly made lewd comments and gestures to her. When she complained to supervisors and human resources, they failed to take action, Barraza said.”

“Because of this ruling, Tesla will not be able to hide behind the closed doors of confidential arbitration… Instead, Tesla will be judged by a jury of Ms. Barraza’s peers in a public courtroom,” attorney David Lowe, who represents Barraza, said. Lowe previously argued to the judge that the agreement forcing arbitration was illegal. Tesla sought arbitration for claims under California laws against discrimination on the job, which aren’t the entirety of the claims that Barraza brought. Meanwhile, Tesla — which has recently seen its stock value dramatically fall — also faces claims of racial discrimination at the company. The California state Department of Fair Employment and Housing has sued Tesla over discrimination at the same plant — in Fremont — where Barraza experienced sexual harassment. As summarized by CNBC, that state agency revealed evidence it said indicated that Tesla often “kept Black workers in low-level roles at the company” and “gave them more physically demanding and dangerous assignments.”