Amid a plethora of complaints about sexual harassment in Silicon Valley, Tesla is back in the spotlight over the issue.
Tesla recently fired AJ Vandermeyden, an engineer who sued the electric-vehicle maker over its handling of her complaints of sexual harassment at work.
Now the company confirms that more than a dozen women voiced complaints about sexual harassment and mistreatment by male managers at a town hall in March.
The town hall on diversity, which was held on International Women’s Day at Tesla’s Fremont factory, was first reported by the Guardian. At the town hall, one woman reportedly called parts of the factory a “predator zone” for harassment — in line with Vandermeyden’s complaint about catcalls on the factory floor.
“We’re taking the feedback very seriously,” a spokeswoman told SiliconBeat Wednesday.
“Immediately after the meeting, a factory-wide message was sent to supervisors and team meetings were conducted to remind employees of Tesla’s strict policy against any kind of harassment,” Tesla said in an emailed statement to SiliconBeat, which the company said was also provided to the Guardian. The company said it followed up on the complaints and has since “made changes to leadership, policy and training to continue to improve our work environment.”
Vandermeyden, who was one of those who spoke out, and another attendee told the Guardian there were 70 to 100 people at the town hall, which was attended by six male executives and a female one.
“This event was hosted by the Women in Tesla employee group and Tesla executives attended because they wanted to hear directly from employees about their experiences and learn about how to improve the workplace,” the company’s statement also said.
The Guardian claimed the event was originally planned as “an opportunity for women to discover essential oils,” which Tesla is disputing. The town hall was planned before the essential-oils meeting, the company said.
The Guardian also referred to an email by CEO Elon Musk that reiterated Tesla’s view of Vandermeyden. Previously, Tesla had claimed that the engineer had received “special treatment” and was promoted at the company despite having no engineering degree.
From Musk’s email:
If you are part of a less represented group, you don’t get a free pass on being a jerk yourself. We have had a few cases at Tesla where someone in a less represented group was actually given a job or promoted over more qualified highly represented candidates and then decided to sue Tesla for millions of dollars because they felt they weren’t promoted enough. That is obviously not cool.
The complaints about sexual harassment and male managers at Tesla are coming to light on the heels of some high-profile resignations by venture investors who have admitted to sexually harassing women.
In addition, Chris Sacca, of “Shark Tank” TV fame who was also an early investor in companies such as Twitter and Instagram, was outed as being accused of sexual harassment. Last week, he wrote a mea culpa saying he “personally contributed to the problem” in Silicon Valley.
Lastly, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick stepped down in June after a blog post by a woman who alleged sexual harassment at the San Francisco startup set off a series of events that exposed a culture of sexism and other unprofessional conduct at the company.
Photo: A Tesla Model S outside Tesla’s factory in Fremont in 2012. (Paul Sakuma/AP)
Tags: elon musk, sexual harassment, tesla