First Uber, now Tesla: Employee sues over sexism, inappropriate conduct

First Uber, now Tesla: Employee sues over sexism, inappropriate conduct
Credit: Steve Jurvetson

Following Susan Fowler’s damning accusations against Uber, Elon Musk’s Tesla is under fire for much the same reason.

AJ Vandermeyen, an engineer who still works for Tesla, spoke with The Guardian about her experiences with sexism and harassment within the company. She filed suit against the company last year (before Fowler’s claims against Uber were posted). This is the first time Vandermeyen’s spoken publicly about the suit, which mirror’s Fowler’s complaints to an eerie degree.

Among other things, Vandermeyen alleges she was paid less than male engineers whose work she directly took over. Men were also promoted over their equally- or more-qualified female colleagues. She claims that men would frequently harass and catcall her and other women at work.

When she complained she was met with the same response: “We’re focused on making cars. We don’t have time to deal with all this other stuff.”

Despite the claims, she says she remains dedicated to Tesla:

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.

Tesla dismissed the complaint in an email, saying “It is inevitable that there will be a small number of individuals who make claims against the company, but that does not mean those claims have merit.”

[Update 04/01] A Tesla spokesperson reached out to TNW with the following statement:

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 is misleading.

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