Tesla loses bid to move sexual harassment lawsuit to arbitration

May 24 (Reuters) – A California state judge has rejected Tesla Inc’s (TSLA.O) bid to send a lawsuit alleging widespread sexual harassment at the company’s flagship assembly plant to private arbitration, allowing it to move forward in court.

California Superior Court Judge Stephen Kaus in Oakland denied Tesla’s motion to compel arbitration in a brief order on Monday.

In a written opinion released on Tuesday, Kaus said Tesla had improperly pressured the plaintiff, Jessica Barraza, to sign an arbitration agreement after she had already quit her previous job.

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“Basically, Barraza was ambushed,” the judge wrote.

Barraza in the lawsuit filed in November claims workers and supervisors at the Fremont, California plant routinely made lewd comments and gestures to female employees, and that the company failed to address complaints.

The lawsuit is one of at least seven pending in California state court to make similar claims against Tesla. Kaus is presiding over five more of those cases.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

David Lowe, a lawyer for Barraza, called the decision “a victory for public accountability.”

“Because of this ruling… Tesla will be judged by a jury of Ms. Barraza’s peers in a public courtroom,” Lowe said in a statement.

Along with the pending sexual harassment claims, Tesla is facing separate lawsuits accusing it of tolerating widespread race discrimination at its plants. A California judge last month awarded $15 million to a Black former factory worker who said he was subjected to racist slurs and graffiti from coworkers. read more

Tesla has said it does not tolerate harassment and has disciplined and fired workers who engaged in misconduct.

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Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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