Tesla request to move sexual harassment lawsuit to arbitration thrown out

Tesla’s request to move a sexual harassment lawsuit to arbitration, which would move the case to be heard in private, was thrown out by California Superior Court Judge Stephen Kaus on Monday.

The lawsuit accuses Tesla workers and supervisors at the company’s Fremont plant in Northern California of sexually harassing plaintiff Jessica Barraza. Barraza filed the lawsuit in November, and her attorneys argued yesterday that an arbitration agreement she signed was invalid because it required her to bring legal claims in confidential proceedings, which would still allow Tesla to sue in open court, a report from Reuters said.

Judge Kaus threw out Tesla’s request without explanation.

Brazza said in her complaint that co-workers and superiors who supervised operations routinely made lewd or inappropriate comments and gestures to female employees. The lawsuit claims Tesla failed to address the complaints submitted that made management aware of the situation.

Barraza’s lawyer David Lowe said the decision was “a victory for public accountability” because it would allow Tesla, the world’s most valuable automaker, to be “judged by a jury of Ms. Barraza’s peers in a public courtroom.”

Private arbitration is where the parties involved in a lawsuit fix their own terms to govern how their dispute is going to be resolved. It is advantageous in some instances because it gives the parties more freedom to resolve the conflict with terms that fit the circumstances involved.

Tesla has fought several lawsuits in Northern California over the past several years, all with instances of harassment or discrimination being alleged against employees who work at the plant. In addition to Barraza’s claims of sexual harassment, Tesla had a lawsuit filed against it by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), which claimed the company has had a culture of segregation since 2012. Additionally, a former African American worker at the factory, Owen Diaz, was awarded a massive $137 million payout due to his lawsuit against the automaker. It was recently reduced to just $15 million.

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