- A former Tesla employee alleged Thursday that the company’s HR department and managers ignored “obscene and misogynistic” music playing loudly at a company worksite in Nevada; those purported failures amounted to sex discrimination, the lawsuit claimed (Israel v. Tesla Inc., et al, No. 3:22-cv-00462 (D. Nev. Oct. 20, 2022)).
- The plaintiff said Tesla violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when it allowed a sexually hostile work environment to persist. Among other things, the music in question “was played throughout almost the entirety” of her more than three-year tenure with the company. She also said she was subjected to repeated sexual remarks, stalking and unwanted and offensive touching.
- The employee said she repeatedly complained to Tesla’s HR personnel about the statements, actions and “abusive music,” but that it failed to take adequate action “sufficient to redress past harassment and deter future harassment.” She said she eventually resigned as a result. Tesla did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
The Tesla plaintiff’s claims highlight a crucial requirement for HR pros: Federal nondiscrimination laws do not require that employers ensure harassment never occurs, but rather that they address it if it does happen. (Although, notably, a different standard may apply if a manager is the harasser.)
An employer may be held liable for harassment if it knew — or should have known — about the harassment and failed to take prompt and appropriate corrective action, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
HR pros should feel empowered to investigate harassment complaints, experts say, and, if they find harassment, they should take action designed to prevent it from recurring.
Still, prevention — as opposed to reaction — is still a best practice, employment law attorneys have said. Beyond compliance, workplaces that permit harassment can erode inclusion and belonging efforts. Employers should undertake anti-harassment training and publicize related policies, sources previously told HR Dive, adding that a well-known reporting mechanism and open lines of communication can help as well.