Tesla has fired an engineer who accused the high-tech auto manufacturer of wage discrimination and a pattern of ignoring sexual harassment.
AJ Vandermeyden, who filed a discrimination lawsuit last fall and went public with a Guardian interview in February, was fired from her role at the company.
“The termination was based on Ms. Vandermeyden behaving in what the evidence indicates is a fundamentally false and misleading manner, not as a result of retaliation for the lawsuit. It is impossible to trust anyone after they have behaved in such a manner and therefore continued employment is also impossible,” a Tesla spokesperson said as part of a multi-paragraph statement, copied below.
Vandermeyden said in her lawsuit that she experienced “unwelcome and pervasive harassment” including “inappropriate language, whistling and catcalls” at Teslaproblems that the company allegedly ignored.
She also said in the lawsuit that she was paid less than male engineers and outlined other kinds of workplace violations, including denial of overtime pay, rest breaks, and meal breaks while she worked in the sales department.
Tesla has faced accusations of labor violations from other employees. Tesla’s HR chief left the company last week.
Tesla has a long statement, attributed to a Tesla spokesperson, where they outlined Vandermeyden’s history at the company and how they reached the decision to fire her. The company claimed that Vandermeyden received “special treatment” and did not face discrimination.
Read the statement below:
“Tesla is committed to creating a positive workplace environment that is free of discrimination for all our employees. When anyone at Tesla makes an allegation of unfair treatment, we take it extremely seriously and do a full investigation. If the investigation shows that the unfair treatment happened, our policy is to take swift action to correct this. This is extremely important, or we can’t have a just working environment. However, 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.
Last year, we conducted a thorough internal investigation and retained a neutral, third-party expert to conduct an independent investigation of Ms. Vandermeydens claims. This investigation concluded that Ms. Vandermeyden’s claims fit in the latter category. Since that time, we extensively re-reviewed all the facts to be absolutely sure the prior conclusions were correct, and we determined that they were. 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.
Ms. Vandermeyden joined Tesla in a sales position in 2013, and since then, despite having no engineering degree, she sought and was given successive engineering roles over more qualified candidates, beginning with her work in Teslas paint shop and eventually another role in General Assembly. Ironically, even after she made complaints of alleged discrimination, she sought and was advanced into yet another role in the Purchasing department (her fifth opportunity at Tesla), again over other more qualified candidates.
Despite repeatedly receiving special treatment at the expense of others, Ms. Vandermeyden nonetheless chose to pursue a miscarriage of justice by suing Tesla and falsely attacking our company in the press. After we carefully considered the facts on multiple occasions and were absolutely convinced that Ms. Vandermeyden’s claims were illegitimate, we had no choice but to end her employment at Tesla.
Gabrielle Toledano, our new global head of HR, conveyed the decision and the full reasoning behind it directly to Ms. Vandermeyden in person. The termination was based on Ms. Vandermeyden behaving in what the evidence indicates is a fundamentally false and misleading manner, not as a result of retaliation for the lawsuit. It is impossible to trust anyone after they have behaved in such a manner and therefore continued employment is also impossible. This action was taken the day before she was due to report to work. Had this not been a long weekend, the conversation would have happened on a Sunday.”
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