Tesla on Wednesday found itself the latest tech company to deal with accusations that its bro culture is making life difficult for some women at the company.
One female employee of the electric car maker told executives at a recent town-hall meeting that sexual harassment was a problem and that some parts of its manufacturing floor is a “predator zone.”
The comment was made at a “Women in Tesla” meeting on March 8, according to The Guardian newspaper, which first reported on the bombshell matter Wednesday.
“Women took the microphone one-by-one and shared stories of sexual harassment, mistreatment by male managers, unfair promotion decisions and more,” one former employee, AJ Vandermeyden, who was present at the meeting, told The Guardian.
Roughly 100 employees, including several Tesla brass, attended the meeting at the company’s Fremont, Calif., factory, Vandermeyden said.
Vandermeyden, a former engineer at Tesla, was recently fired. She claims her ouster was tied to a lawsuit she filed last year.
“They just want to absolutely crush anyone who speaks up,” Vandermeyden, 33, told The Guardian. “I was made a sacrificial lamb.” The lawsuit alleged sexual harassment at Tesla.
Vandermeyden was not the employee who called the factory a “predator zone,” although she hopes allegations made by female employees validate her experience.
Vandermeyden’s alleged experience at Tesla eerily parallels Susan J. Fowler’s experience at Uber. Fowler, also an engineer, went public with claims of sexual discrimination in a February blog post, “Reflecting On One Very, Very Strange Year At Uber.”
The blog is credited with launching the investigation that last month forced out Uber co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick. Also, high-profile tech investor Dave McClure, who founded the accelerator 500 Startups, was forced to resign after a woman at the firm complained of sexual harassment.
McClure admitted he acted inappropriately and called himself a “creep.”
The instances at Uber, 500 Startups and, perhaps, Tesla are pulling back the curtain on what many believe to be a long-standing issue. Tesla, however, is pushing back against Vandermeyden.
The company told The Post that it not only conducted an internal investigation but also retained a third-party expert for an independent inquiry of her claims.
After the probe, Tesla said it determined Vandermeyden pursued “a miscarriage of justice by suing Tesla and falsely attacking our company in the press.”
Only after being “absolutely convinced” that her claims were illegitimate, Tesla said, did it fire her.
Vandermeyden has since lawyered up with San Francisco-based Therese Lawless, who in 2015 represented Ellen Pao in a landmark discrimination case against venture-capital firm Kleiner, Perkins Caufield and Byers.