Tesla: Sexual Harassment Accuser Received ‘Special Treatment,’ But ‘Chose To Pursue A Miscarriage Of Justice’

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Eric Lieberman Managing Editor
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Tesla claims that it fired a former female engineer who accused the tech company of gender discrimination and sexual harassment because she chose to “pursue a miscarriage of justice” by filing a lawsuit.

AJ Vandermeyden alleges that Tesla paid her disproportionately less than male equivalents and ignored several of her complaints of unequal treatment and sexual harassment. Specifically, she says that some of her fellow employees would taunt and catcall her, and that leadership at the company did not do enough to stop it.

“If anything, rather than face discrimination, the facts show that Ms. Vandermeyden was given special treatment and opportunities for advancement that were unwarranted based on her qualifications, and that negatively impacted other more qualified individuals,” a Tesla spokesperson told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

That is “the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard,” Therese Lawless, legal representation for Vandermeyden, responded during an interview.

Lawless says her client is filing a lawsuit for a number of different workplace violations, including discrimination and a fair pay claim.

She told TheDCNF that Vandermeyden was unfairly categorized as an exempt employee, which caused her to not receive the proper wages and overtime compensation. She also says that her client is suing for the company having “an overly broad confidentiality agreement, which oppresses employees right to talk about their work conditions and to talk about their pay, which is illegal in California.” Vandermeyden’s attorney expects to amend the lawsuit to include the recent termination since they believe the company wrongfully retaliated after she expressed her complaints.

Tesla vehemently denies such claims, saying she was actually treated with extra favorability.

The tech conglomerate details Vandermeyden’s tenure at the company, including her quick ascension to higher positions, despite her relatively weak credentials. She reportedly went from working in a sales position to being essentially promoted to successive engineering roles “over more qualified candidates … [and] despite having no engineering degree.”

Prosecution doesn’t buy their explanation. Lawless thinks it’s absurd that Tesla would promote someone it thinks is undeserving, adding that the promotions were due to her hard work. She says she has heard nothing but great remarks from fellow employees who who have come out in support of Vandermeyden.

“People are reaching out to her now, totally mystified about why she would be terminated, because they know what a good worker she was,” Lawless told TheDCNF.

The car manufacturer, though, says that a “neutral, third-party expert” conducted an “independent investigation” into Vandermeyden’s allegations and found that the claims of discrimination were false. Tesla followed up by administering their own probe, eventually declaring that their findings corroborated the other investigation.

“Equally important to a just working environment is to not give in to false claims of discrimination, as such claims threaten to undercut legitimate ones,” the company’s representative said.

Aside from the accusations levied against Tesla, sexual harassment and gender bias allegations seem to be endemic to Silicon Valley, and the tech and startup industries in general.

Susan J. Fowler, who worked as an Uber engineer for roughly a year, wrote a disturbing account of a manager’s salacious behavior and the subsequent unfair treatment after she reported the alleged misconduct.

Days later, The New York Times spoke to more than 30 current and former employees and reported that Uber has been involved in a number of lewd and dangerous escapades, including booze-filled ragers, bosom-grabbing, consumption of illicit drugs and a joy-ride in a temporarily hijacked shuttle bus.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick announced soon after that he hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to conduct an investigation into Fowler’s sexual harassment and systemic sexism allegations. Arianna Huffington, the co-founder of the eponymous media outlet Huffington Post, who is part of Uber’s board of directors, and two other internal employees, also contributed to the review. (RELATED: Investors Not Happy To See Holder, Huffington Investigating Uber)

Kalanick also asked the company’s senior vice president to resign in February after learning he faced sexual harassment allegations at Google, his prior place of employment. While none of the allegations have been absolutely confirmed, the accusations at Uber seem to be just a microcosm of the larger tech community.

One in 10 women who work in the industry have reported “unwanted sexual attention” during their time, according to a study published in April. The problem is not just exclusive to females, either, as 8 percent of men also reported being on the receiving end of sexual advances. (RELATED: Female CEO Resigns, Accused Of Grabbing Boobs)

Vandermeyden’s attorney thinks that, while not all tech companies are corrupt when it comes to equal treatment of genders and properly addressing allegations of sexual harassment, it does appear to be a somewhat widespread problem.

“Many of the tech companies know how to treat their employees fairly and equitably, and they address the issues that are brought to their attention and they are transparent,” Lawless said. “But I do think that it’s a problem for tech companies, and that women are not being treated equally in tech companies.”

TheDCNF asked if Tesla is one of these tech companies.

“Based on my experience with this client, Tesla has some issues,” Lawless concluded.

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