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Jessica Barraza, a Tesla factory worker, filed a lawsuit detailing alleged sexual harassment at Tesla. (wolterke/Adobe)

Tesla is the latest big tech company to come under fire after an employee said she experienced sexual harassment while working at the company's main factory, according to a new lawsuit first reported by the Washington Post Friday.


The worker, Jessica Barraza, has been a production associate for three years at the Fremont, California factory where she said was cat-called nearly every day and touched inappropriately. Barraza's breaking point came Sept. 28, when she said a man snuck up behind her and put his legs between her thighs as she clocked in after a lunch break.

Barraza called out Tesla CEO and Austin transfer Elon Musk, saying he "doesn't set a good example for the factory" with suggestive tweets. Musk had pondered starting a new university that he'd title the Texas Institute of Technology & Science, alluding to a crude acronym. In a follow up tweet, Musk said "it will have epic merch."

Filed in a state court Thursday, Tesla is being sued for "rampant sexual harassment" with claims of "nightmarish conditions" at the Fremont factory. Three current and former Tesla workers corroborated parts of Barraza's account in interviews with the Post, as they said they witnessed incidents or experienced sexual harassment themselves at Fremont facilities.

Barraza said co-workers regularly commented on her body, saying she has a "coke bottle figure", "onion booty", a "fat a--", and "fat a-- t--ties." She said human resources failed to address the issue when she came forward with September and October filings and said even the hr@tesla.com email address was disabled for receiving filings.

"It almost gives it like an…. 'He's tweeting about it, it has to be okay,'" Barraza told the Post. "It's not fair to myself, to my family, to other women who are working there." Barraza is seeking compensatory and punitive damages for violations of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.

This lawsuit comes as Tesla prepares to move its headquarters to Austin and start production on the new Gigafactory. And it's the latest report drawing attention to the so called bro culture that's leading to sexual harassment and gender discrimination in the EV industry. Earlier this month, electric automaker Rivian was sued by Laura Schwab, a former sales and marketing executive for the company. In a Medium post, Schwab described being excluded from crucial meetings despite her 20 years of auto experience.

"Never in my years in the auto industry had I experienced such blatant marginalization," Schwab wrote.

Another major sexual harassment claim in the tech industry deals with Jeff Bezos' space company Blue Origin. A September letter endorsed by 20 current and former employees describes the workplace as "toxic." The letter recounted groping, demeaning comments and inquiries on women's dating lives.

Already, reports show that there are signs of harassment and discrimination in Austin's growing tech scene. A recent KVUE survey of women in Austin's tech workspaces found 56% of respondents said they received unwanted advances from colleagues.

It can be difficult for tech workers to fight back, as many, including Tesla employees, are required to sign arbitration agreements so disputes stay out of court. Barraza said her agreement's "unconscionable" terms make it unenforceable. Currently, she's on doctor-ordered medical leave and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

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