Activists Are Calling Tesla A ‘Predator Zone’ For Treatment Of Female Employees

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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Female employees at Tesla said during a town hall meeting last March that they have been subjected to catcalls and harassment at the automaker’s California factory, according to a Wednesday report from The Guardian.

One employee at the meeting claimed that the factory has a so-called “predator zone” of harassment. Between 70 and 100 people attended the event, the report noted. Tesla disputes The Guardian’s account of the meeting.

A Tesla representative told reporters Wednesday that a group called “Women in Tesla” was responsible for the get-together. The group holds meetings to receive feedback about the work environment.

“At Tesla, we regularly host events like the Town Hall, and only someone who is intentionally trying to misconstrue the facts and paint Tesla in a negative light could perceive such meetings as something negative,” the representative said about the tone of the report.

The Guardian got much of the content for its report from former Tesla employee, AJ Vandermeyden, who accused the Silicon Valley company in February of dismissing claims that she suffered daily harassment from her fellow employees. She also said that the company unfairly places impossibly high barriers on women trying to advance their careers.

“Until somebody stands up, nothing is going to change,” she said in an interview at the time of her accusations, which stem from a lawsuit she filed last year against Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

Some of the male executives at the March meeting were concerned about the womens’ comments, according to the report.

One male said that the treatment was unacceptable and that he would not want his daughters subject to that kind of behavior, Vandermeyden said. One female manager, who was present but no longer works for Tesla, said that her former colleague’s comments were “insulting. You shouldn’t have to have daughters to know this.”

Another employee at the event referenced an area of the factory as a predator zone, which “surprised many in the room who had never heard of this term,” according to a Tesla statement. The company issued a factory-wide message shortly after the Women of Tesla meeting reminding supervisors that Tesla has a “strict policy against any kind of harassment.”

Vandermeyden, for her part, was promoted to an engineering position in the general assembly department prior to her termination — the department consisted mostly of men and she was paid less, according to her lawsuit. She also claimed that the company overlooked her solutions to engineer glitches and promoted men above her.

She and other female engineers, the lawsuit states, were denied promotions, even though they were “equally or more qualified” than the men. They were also denied equal pay.

“Equal pay is something that is essentially in the back of your mind every single day,” Vandermeyden said. “You have all these data points showing how you’ve exceeded some of the predecessors and improved on the system. It wears on you.”

However, a 2016 study refutes much of the argument suggesting discrimination is the factor causing inequalities in pay between men and women. It shows that pay differences between the genders has more to do with the different choices the two sexes make about work-life balances.

Women were willing to give up 7.3 percent of their pay for more flexible hours, compared to just 1 percent for men. They also said they would opt for lower earnings to the tune of 4 percent for more job security, compared to 0.6 percent for men.

Activists have engaged in concerted campaigns against other tech companies as well. Former Uber engineer Susan Fowler, for instance, said in a personal blog post in February that she had experienced sexual harassment at the ride-hailing company. Her allegations prompted an internal probe against company CEO Travis Kalanick, which culminated in his resignation.

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