If it wasn’t already evident that Silicon Valley’s issues with sexist culture extend beyond Uber, it is now. Tesla engineer AJ Vandermeyden has revealed that she’s suing her employer over allegations that the electric car maker ignored complaints of discrimination and “pervasive harassment.” She says she was paid less than men she replaced, and that she and fellow female engineers weren’t given promotions even though they were at least as qualified as men. The harassment, meanwhile, included “inappropriate language, whistling and catcalls,” according to the lawsuit.
To make matters worse, Vandermeyden claims that management retaliated whenever she brought up workplace sexism. Higher-ups would say that she could only get a promotion if she hit targets loftier than those expected from men, and that she wasn’t given overtime pay or breaks (including meal breaks) when she was in a sales role. She also maintains that she was punished for whistleblowing when she raised the alarm over cars knowingly sold with defects.
We’ve reached out to Tesla for a response. In a statement to the Guardian, it didn’t directly address the points mentioned lawsuit but did say that it believes in “fostering an inclusive workplace” and that there’s “more we can do to promote diversity.” It also downplayed Vandermeyden’s case, maintaining that there would always be a “small number” of people who make claims against the EV company.
As with Uber, the question isn’t so much whether or not Tesla understands the importance of fighting sexism as whether it’s willing to implement deep structural reforms that would help prevent and punish sexist behavior. Right now, it’s not clear that this is the case — there’s no mention of organizational and policy decisions that would let women like Vandermeyden feel safe and valued.