Female Engineer Files Discrimination Lawsuit Against Tesla, Company Responds – Not So

Tesla

MAR 1 2017 BY STEVEN LOVEDAY 62

The Tesla Fremont Factory

Amidst the recent employee letter regarding Tesla’s work conditions, and the UAW involvement, a former lawsuit has surfaced. Female Tesla engineer, AJ Vandermeyden, has come forward to accuse the electric automaker of “pervasive harassment.”

Tesla, Jose Moran

Tesla employee, Jose Moran, drafted a letter and produced a video complaining of workplace concerns at Tesla’s Fremont factory.

She claims that less qualified male engineers make more money and receive better promotions. She also mentioned a workplace wrought with inappropriate sexual behavior, which is not corrected. AJ said that she has come upon issues whenever voicing her concerns. Like the Moran letter (linked above) AJ insists that she is a Tesla lover and that she is only coming forward to assure that problems are addressed. She told the Guardian:

“Unless someone stands up, nothing will change. I’m an advocate of Tesla. I really do believe they are doing great things. That said, I can’t turn a blind eye if there’s something fundamentally wrong going on.”

“It’s shocking in this day and age that this is still a fight we have to have.”

“We’re focused on making cars. We don’t have time to deal with all this other stuff.”

Vandermeyden (33) has been working at Tesla for about four years. She explained that she has taken over work from males co-workers and been offered less money. AJ said that she commonly attends meetings with upwards of fifty man, and she is the only woman in the room. Tesla’s top positions are all filled by men, and of over thirty VPs, only two are female.

She explained a situation that occurred last fall, during which she pointed out some discrepancies in quality testing, the her male co-workers had overlooked. AJ had a solution to the problem, but was dismissed, and the same male employees were promoted.

In reference to the “sexual” harassment, AJ said of men at the Fremont factory:

“They all started hooting and hollering and whistling. That can’t happen without somebody noticing … It’s disturbing.”

Vandermeyden’s long list goes on and on. She shared that she has been stifled due to complaining about sexual harassment. There is no way for her to gain a promotion due to impossible performance expectations, that are not the same for male workers. She has since left her preferred general assembly position, and transferred to the purchasing department. Regardless of her many positive evaluations, AJ feels that she can’t advance in the former position. However, in the new position, AJ claims that Tesla has refused overtime pay, as well as meal and rest breaks.

Tesla has already investigated Vandermeyden’s accusations and found that none of her claims could be substantiated.

Update:  Tesla has further responded, noting a 3rd party outfit has found Tesla to not be at fault. (via Electrek)

“Tesla is committed to creating a positive workplace environment that is free of discrimination for all our employees.

Ms. Vandermeyden joined Tesla in a sales position in 2013, and since then, despite having no formal engineering degree, she has sought and moved into successive engineering roles, beginning with her work in Tesla’s paint shop and eventually another role in General Assembly. Even after she made her complaints of alleged discrimination, she sought and was advanced into at least one other new role, evidence of the fact that Tesla is committed to rewarding hard work and talent, regardless of background.

When Ms. Vandermeyden first brought her concerns to us over a year ago, we immediately retained a neutral third party, Anne Hilbert of EMC2Law, to investigate her claims so that, if warranted, we could take appropriate action to address the issues she raised. After an exhaustive review of the facts, the independent investigator determined that Ms. Vandermeyden’s “claims of gender discrimination, harassment, and retaliation have not been substantiated.” Without this context, the story presented in the original article (by the Guardian) is misleading.”

Update 2:  Tesla also provided USA Today with  a redacted version of the findings from Anne Hilbert of EMC2Law, for the purpose of summarizing its findings.

According to Hilbert, Vandermeyden was in the middle of her peer group’s pay scale, promotions of male peers were not due to gender discrimination, and the catcalls from assembly line colleagues were more insensitive than sexist.

While the outcome of Vandermeyden’s workplace suit won’t be known for some time, it highlights what is far from a new issue in Silicon Valley.

AJ’s lawyer feels that the company’s investigation was minimal. Regardless of all of this, AJ has purchased a Tesla Model S, and is a Model 3 reservation holder. She still believes that Tesla is an outstanding company:

 “I think they’re a revolutionary and innovative company.”

She hopes that her choice to go public, and to file the lawsuit, doesn’t further hinder her job at Tesla, or find her without a job. AJ shared:

“Half the time when I walk into work, I wonder if my badge is going to work.”

Source: The Guardian, Electrek, USA Today

Categories: General

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62 Comments on "Female Engineer Files Discrimination Lawsuit Against Tesla, Company Responds – Not So"

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Omar Sultan
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Omar Sultan

Steven: You are a bit behind the news cycle on this–there is a Tesla response out there (posted yesterday) that adds a bit more color/context to this.

Jay Cole
Admin

Omar, thanks for noticing that. Will add in Tesla’s expanded statement now!

Also, as a point of interest looking at Tesla’s statement, there is some newer updates regarding the 3rd party report Tesla mentions in its statement…will add that in too, as apparently the story will continue to evolve, lol.

Assaf
Guest

Omar, is there anything in the Tesla response that is different from the typical stonewall/pushback/distract employed by corporate HR/PR flacks whenever such a story comes out?

I mean:
– Reiterate boilerplate platitudes about how lovely Tesla is
– Find personal fault with the person filing the complaint
– Point to some flimsy/opaque “investigation” that has found, shockingly, that all is well and Tesla is a-ok

So… any substance in the rebuttal beyond those? More to the general point, any evidence that Tesla is doing anything to increase the female representation among its tech workers, and make them more welcome and appreciated once in?

ijonjack
Guest
ijonjack

Tesla Should Counter suit Her …She really like Tesla alright!

Assaf
Guest

Ugh. Par for the Silicon Valley course.

To the inevitable trolls who would try to impugn the messenger here, please take a moment to consider what an extraordinary amount of courage is required of a young professional to come out with this, while using her full name. Courage you will likely never have.

Anyway, it turns out that when it comes to treating women, male geeks are just as bad or even worse than male rednecks, or any other group of males that travels in packs. What a shame.

DJ
Guest
DJ

Wow, how nice of you to stereotype an entire demographic and presume they are in fact guilty of this claim.

I mean, it’s not like stuff like this is ever made up or anything…

Assaf
Guest
Assaf

LOL

“I mean, it’s not like stuff like this is ever made up or anything…”

YOU mean, it’s not like sexism in the workplace, and generally in public life, doesn’t exist and is not pervasive, or anything…

Or perhaps, you just landed here from another planet?

DJ
Guest
DJ
I don’t understand why it’s ok for Asshat to call people names yet posts that call him a name, that he may admittedly be completely undeserving of is deleted. So much for being innocent before being found guilty on this site I guess. It’s utterly amazing what can be classified as “insensitive” these days. First off I don’t condone cat calls and if she asked them to stop, or it was brought to someone’s attention formally in which she requested they stop and they continued and Tesla let them continue that could be harassment but for all we know one person catcalled her one time, or even possibly the person next to her that one time. I mean it’s not really like she’s exactly attractive so who knows. I’m sorry but it sounds like this lady has an axe to grind and is looking for anything out there to help her case. Who knows, I could be wrong but there have been many cases where such claims have been found out to be false which in the end only end up hurting those who truly are victims of actual pervasive/sexual harassment. And again, this is America where you’re innocent until… Read more »
terminaltrip421
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terminaltrip421

according to the investigation her claims of catcalling are true and were dismissed as insensitive rather than harassment.

Breezy
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Breezy

I totally believe her. It takes tremendous courage to go public like this. Good for her. And shame on Tesla for trying to rebut this in the press using details from a confidential report, redacted or not. The correct response is to say “Tesla does not comment on internal personnel matters or active litigation.”

“and the catcalls from assembly line colleagues were more insensitive than sexist.”

Great, so the catcalls were sexist and insensitive.

MTN Ranger
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MTN Ranger

Yes, that was pretty lame of Tesla to say that.

Samwise
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Samwise

Tesla didn’t say that, the independent 3rd party investigator did, I’m not saying it’s not a terrible line or anything (basically it’s a shocker) but credit where credit is due.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ sven
Guest
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ sven

I’m surprised that Elon didn’t put a stop to this when it was happening, since he was living out of his sleeping bag next to the assembly line and must have heard all the cat calls. 😉

realistic
Guest
realistic
Assaf, as the spouse of an embattled female engineer who practiced her trade in the 80’s and the father of two accomplished young women who have excelled in technical fields, I can attest that the road can often be difficult for the female cohort. In my days as a corporate suit, I took what I learned from themn to heart and genuinely worked hard to insure a very competitve but fair playing field. I have many anecdotes about this part of my life that aren’t worth taking more space here, but I think my teams did really, really well. Now, as for Silicon Valley: my limited experience with these cats has been very like my short time in commodities trading. Machismo tends to pour out into the work floor. It’s pervasive. Look at the Uber universe as an example, or the composition of executive staff and boards in many of these businesses. There are FAR more women in leadership roles in traditional flannel-shirt cultures as agricultural equipment and aerospace than in the hallowed halls of our economic West Coast powerhouses. Uber is about as descriptive an environment as you can imagine where the CEO of a (putative) $67B enterprise can… Read more »
Bluenation
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Bluenation

I normally detest electrek but he just put out the article showing an independent, female led law firm investigated this issue. And found that the engineer’s accusations are baseless. Not only that. The so called engineer isn’t even qualified, she has no engineering degree! Wtf!

Doncha love these misandrists?

Assaf
Guest

…and the Intel factory where I spent 3 years, had plenty of engineers without an engineering degree, myself included (I had a Masters of science, so one could argue “overqualified”, but not a specific Eng degree if that what you’re looking for).

One female engineer there came in with a B.A. in humanities. The closest thing she had to Eng was an MBA with a hitech focus. She was quite successful in her job, and was in fact promoted. Because Intel – hardly a saintly company, generally speaking – really *was* trying to outreach and expand its tech-female workforce, unlike Tesla.

That, btw, was in the late 1990s.

For Tesla to now throw out there that she didn’t have an Eng degree, is downright disgusting. They hired her as an Eng, her performance reviews were positive, that’s all that matters.

bro1999
Guest

“According to Hilbert, Vandermeyden was in the middle of her peer group’s pay scale, promotions of male peers were not due to gender discrimination, and the catcalls from assembly line colleagues were more insensitive than sexist.”

http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2017/02/28/tesla-employees-lawsuit-levels-sexism-accusations/98548210/

So the investigation did find that the accusation of “catcalls” were true, but they were only “insensitive”, not “sexist”.

Since when is it OK at any company to make catcalls at females as they walk by? Pretty damning IMO.

Just like the Uber case. “Hey, those propositions for sex weren’t sexist, just some thin skin on the other party!”

Paul Stoller
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Paul Stoller

Thank you for pointing out the obvious, catcalls are sexist period. The fact they brush this off makes me doubt the conclusions that everything is aok.

James
Guest
James
As a cartoonist, I like to draw. I had a brain-numbing, repetitive job once and occasionally I would draw a little gag panel cartoon and post it on the wall to cheer folks up. One day, the newspaper I worked for had a story on it’s front page about how scientists had just concluded that humans are not directly linked to Neanderthals. A very interesting article indeed, which inspired me to draw a picture – a living room scene with pop Neanderthal in the easy chair reading the newspaper while mom Neanderthal, replete with apron, big eyelashes and lipstick stood nearby. Pop says, “Hey honey, it says here we’re not humans!” OK, a dumb gag, but nothing out of the ordinary in the realm of cartoons, right? Wrong! Next day, I’m called into my manager’s office. It is explained to me that someone on another shift saw my cartoon and was offended. I quipped, “So we have a Neanderthal employed in our office now?!”. My manager was not amused. Her stone face was so serious and matter of fact as she explained I had been written up and I had a right to a meeting with upper management if I… Read more »
bro1999
Guest

“Tesla hired a law firm with female management to deal with her case. The fact that they could bring up no suitable evidence that any bantor amongst her coworkers was “abusive” or harrassment is enough for me to move on. ”

Sorta like when Trent Lott went on BET trying to apologize the day after it was reported he made comments supportive of segregation.

“Hey, let’s hire an independent, female-run firm! That should please everyone and check all the boxes!”

James
Guest
James

Were Trent Lott’s comments recorded? Did he make this commentary on TV, radio?

Apples and oranges, bro1999.

If one is guilty until proven innocent, I would also say you were correct.

I’m saying – show us the evidence. That is all. If there is evidence – then apology could be accepted and we move on – or people can hold a grudge, or judge that person insincere. So be it.

In such cases where jobs are on the line – what one says happened has to be backed up with evidence. That’s all I’m saying.

The law firm Tesla hired looked at all evidence, and surely investigated themselves. In that – their opinion was that what evidence there was did not cross the line from typical office bantor to sexual harassment. You would think that would be pretty plain to all. Naturally, if the case makes it to court, a judge and/or jury will decide.

James
Guest
James
* my case was not dealing with a job whose income was such to justify a lawyer or lawsuit. The first thing I asked my manager was a meeting with said insulted employee so I could explain the meaning of the cartoon. The newspaper was readily available in office and all I had to do was point to the story, and said person should have just said, “oh my! my mistake, I thought it was racist and the man and woman were African Americans!”…etc. etc.. I would laugh and apologize that my art talent was so bad that I evidently hadn’t made the characters look hairy and apelike enough, or something like that… Simple communication – but in my case, management said it was against labor rules to allow me to speak directly to the employee – that their anonymity was required for their safety! SAFETY?!! After all, rules are rules. Every time a certain party has the Oval Office for eight years, our nation goes through this very severe politically correct period. During the Clinton years, Al Gore was on the forefront of what was offensive to the polite police, and what was not. Strange how severely our nation… Read more »
realistic
Guest
realistic
James, once many years ago I developed a very close friendship with a high-achieving young woman and worked hard to create opportunities for her in our organization. I am White; she was Black / African American. I will call her Ms.J. One year, during the endless feasting during the Thanksgiving through Christmas period, my name came up on the calendar to bring in something. I made my favorite: sweet potato pies, a Southern favorite to be sure. Now, the young woman in question and I both spent a fair amount of our childhoods in the South; the culture (and food) was an occasional topic of conversation. On the day I brought in my calorie contribution to the division smorgasboard, I dropped by her office and gave her a piece I had saved for her, telling her I wanted to be sure she didn’t miss out. That’s all, nothing about who she was or where she had come from, just “I knew you wouldn’t want to miss this!” A half-hour later, my HR mgr, with whom I had developed by far THE leading processes and metrics for minority staff development, was sitting in my office staring at his shoes and asking… Read more »
Taser54
Guest
Taser54

No Engineering degree? Not an engineer.

bro1999
Guest

If only that applied to politics!

James
Guest
James

As in, “not a lawyer or career politician, not a president?”.

Many believe some of our greatest presidents and congresspersons have come from careers NOT based upon the legal profession or a political science degree.

Here’s what I found on Google:

What presidents were not politicians?
Presidents who never served in Congress (either the House or the Senate) were George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Zachary Taylor, Ulysses Grant, Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, William H. Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower

James
Guest
James

Others such as Ronald Reagan – an ACTOR!

Yet, many believe he was one of the greats…

Just sayin’…

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ sven
Guest
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ sven

Wasn’t there another great president who was also an actor? I think he might have been on a reality show. Hmmm. . .

James
Guest
James

No.

No other actor I know of.

Having a TV show being yourself isn’t really “acting”. President Trump has literally been a real estate investor, developer and property manager his entire life.

Or, as some may describe, a businessman. As a multi billionaire, I would say quite a successful one at that.

I know you’re trying to be cute with a little jab at the Oval Office – but it just came out as dumb.

ffbj
Guest
ffbj

Men are pigs.

georges
Guest
georges

ffbj,
LOL, concise and totally true statement.
Hombre Mono!

ffbj
Guest
ffbj

Tks. A bit crass, but being a man I could not help myself.

Koenigsegg
Guest
Koenigsegg

Ya and? It’s the natural imperative of the male libido. There’s no control over it, blame the monkeys back in the olden days.

(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous
Guest
(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous

Oink.

SparkEV
Guest

If I’m employed at mostly female leading edge tech firm, and I get catcalled, I’d love it. Not only that, but I don’t even have qualifying degree for the position while getting similar pay. Every male I know (and many I don’t know) would love it, too. It’s sort of a male fantasy.

Oink oink, indeed. This just shows one of many fundamental differences between men and women. If women keep bringing up lawsuits over insignificant issues that won’t be issues if situation was reversed like the example I give above, it won’t help women. Why would companies risk getting sued by hiring more women?

Unless there was actual laws broken, such as sexual extortion, rape, etc. this kind of lawsuit helps no one, and actually hurt women in general.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ sven
Guest
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ sven

You’re probably the type of guy who would sleep his way to the top. 😉

SparkEV
Guest

Wouldn’t you? Mmmm… sleeping with the boss… That’s what I admire about Obama.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ sven
Guest
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ sven

Too bad Hillary didn’t get elected. You would’ve made a great White House intern. 😀

Someone out there
Guest
Someone out there

No, men are apes. And so are women.

bro1999
Guest

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

Samwise
Guest
Samwise

Lucky theres no petrol involved then.

Pushmi-Pullyu
Guest
Pushmi-Pullyu

The flip side of that is that if you create enough smoke, people will think there’s a fire, even when there is not.

Maybe this woman’s complaints were legitimate. And maybe they weren’t. In any case, for someone who hasn’t seen the evidence to dismiss the conclusion of the third-party investigation seems both prejudiced and arrogant.

bro1999
Guest

I like how Tesla threw a veiled slam at Ms. Vandermeyden in their official statement, saying she had “no formal engineering degree”.

What’s next, our country electing a President that has 0 prior experience working politics in DC?!

Big Solar
Guest
Big Solar

Thats pretty good but if someone is not as good at a job or not as well qualified for it getting less money may seem reasonable to some depending on the job and the variances of the job.

ffbj
Guest
ffbj

He liked a tweet I wrote that was none too nice, but it was funny. Apparently he thought so too. So I decided the cut the POTUS some slack, and lay off him a bit.
Bribed by a tweet like, how sad.

ffbj
Guest
ffbj

Hardly a surprise. Maybe a fake DT could show up, tell a few jokes, sign a few orders, grab some lunch and leave.

LIKE
1
Donald J. Trump
4:04 PM – 25 Feb 2017

That was in response to him not showing up at the correspondents dinner.

(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous
Guest
(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous

I’ve done hundreds of application screenings for positions that required degrees.
First applicants into the “round file” are the ones who did not have the required degree.

Maybe we should’ve gotten sued also……lol

Someone out there
Guest
Someone out there

Yet another underhanded attack by the UAW?

Pushmi-Pullyu
Guest
Pushmi-Pullyu

Well, it seems pretty clear the union activists dusted off an old complaint and now they’re using it to get people to assume TEsla is at fault here, based on nothing but unsubstantiated claims from one single person.

In fact, you can see how effective that strategy is from what is posted in this very comment thread!

Personally, I’d think that if there was a culture of harassment as pervasive as what that woman claimed, then there would be other similar complaints. Since there apparently are not, then I think it’s best to be skeptical, and remember the axiom “Innocent until proven guilty.” This woman’s accusations, in absence of other evidence, do not rise to the level of proof of guilt.

Someone out there
Guest
Someone out there

“Personally, I’d think that if there was a culture of harassment as pervasive as what that woman claimed, then there would be other similar complaints”

Yeah that is my thought too. Tesla has tons of employees and a lot of media focus. It would be hard to cover up any serious company culture issue.

Nix
Guest
Nix

I don’t doubt that she faces an uphill battle in a male dominated industry. But the fact that she was given an engineering position without having an engineering degree is pretty amazing, and goes counter to what she has said.

If others in her area with engineering degrees are getting promoted, and she is not, the clear answer is for her to get an engineering degree. Degrees matter when it comes to promotions.

With all that said, this line is complete BS:

“catcalls from assembly line colleagues were more insensitive than sexist.”

So is the assembly line also doing catcalls to men in equal numbers to the women they catcall? No? Then it is sexist, end of story. They need to put an end to that crap now.

Koenigsegg
Guest
Koenigsegg

This whole thing is worthless without pics of the said objectified woman.

Need to pics to further assess and determine things.

Is she fat, is she good looking, does she got a big butt. These are the important questions.

Lol inb4angrybetamales

Ron
Guest

The original article has photos of her for your consideration of her worthiness of catcalls.

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/feb/28/tesla-female-engineer-lawsuit-harassment-discrimination

CLIVE
Guest
CLIVE

Sounds like she is looking for new employment.

Clearly money is more important than her current job.

bro1999
Guest

Still employed by Tesla. Would look bad for Elon to axe her now.

The fact she’s willing to risk her job and go public only gives her more credibility.

CLIVE
Guest
CLIVE

Gives her credibility?

Alrighty then.

Pushmi-Pullyu
Guest
Pushmi-Pullyu
It’s amazing how so many posting here seem to think they know all about what actually occurred, even though none of them were present to witness what happened, or didn’t. Some people are just too sensitive; they go out of their way to find offense where none is intended. Of course, I don’t know what really happened any more than anyone else does. But saying that “catcalls” were more insensitive than sexist may very well be true… if what the female employee in question considers “catcalls”, but her male co-workers don’t. Case in point, a story told by a friend of mine: At his place of work, a male co-worker who was a computer programmer was talking to a female programmer. They were trying to figure out why the computer program wasn’t working. After looking it over, the male programmer said “This statement is pregnant; it’s missing a period at the end.” Well, the female programmer he was talking to wasn’t offended, but a woman in an adjacent cubicle overheard the comment, and filed a complaint. In a case similar to what James reported in his comment above, this man was written up for sexual harassment! We definitely live in… Read more »
James
Guest
James

Great quote, Pushmi!

(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous
Guest
(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous

lol, this is EV news???

Nick
Guest
Nick

Oh yeah, the article doesn’t mention it, but Tesla is a major manufacturer of electric vehicles, so things which affect its ability to attract and retain top talent has an impact on EVs.

:-p

toni
Guest
toni

top talent? So if I sue Tesla I automatically gat the title “top talent”?

toni
Guest
toni

The problem with incompetent people is that they usually don’t see their shortcomings and think that they deserve the same benefits as their smarter colleagues.
Sorry but it is difficult to take serious people that try to sue their employer because their salary “was not big enough”