Tesla has suffered several recent scandals, with one of the most damaging being the catcalling and sexual assault claims leveled by a former employee. Historically, companies like Tesla have relied on arbitration clauses in employment contracts to keep these kinds of claims from going public and damaging their reputations.
However, Tesla has discovered that California courts are no longer willing to allow these arbitration clauses to stand after the judge chose to let this recent sexual harassment case proceed. Keep reading to learn how this decision will affect Tesla and what it means for other harassment lawsuits in California.
Tesla’s Attempt to Prevent Harassment Claims
Last year, Jessica Barraza filed her harassment lawsuit against Tesla. In the court documents, she claimed she suffered lewd comments and inappropriate touching while employed at the company. However, Tesla immediately attempted to force her claim into arbitration to keep the case out of the courts.
Months later, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Stephen Kaus elected to dismiss the arbitration agreement Tesla had required Barraza to sign. In his decision, Judge Kaus cited the federal law that went into place in March of this year that banned forced arbitration clauses for sexual harassment claims.
This decision sets a powerful precedent for many cases already in motion in March. The federal law technically only applies to cases that began after the bill was made official. However, Judge Kaus’ decision demonstrates that California judges can use their discretion to dismiss the arbitration clauses and allow cases to move forward in court.
What This Means for Other Sexual Harassment Claims
Companies that use these clauses in their employment agreements often want to prevent employees from going public about their mistreatment. In arbitration, companies can select supposedly neutral third-party arbitrators to make legal decisions in disputes between employers and employees. This often leads to employees failing to receive adequate legal assistance or recourse for unfair rulings.
That’s why Judge Kaus’ decision is so important. California sexual harassment claims filed before March of this year may use his decision as precedent to nullify these agreements. Instead of being forced into closed-door arbitration hearings, employees can speak out about their experiences and make their complaints a matter of public record.
More importantly, they can get a fair trial with adequate legal representation instead of trying to represent themselves in front of the arbitrator. That means that Judge Kaus’ decision may help many people otherwise left behind by the federal bill to receive justice for the behavior they’ve faced.
Move Your Sexual Harassment Claim Forward
Tesla is far from the only company where California workers may be sexually harassed. If you’ve been sexually harassed at work, Judge Kaus’ landmark ruling gives you a better chance of filing a successful lawsuit, even if you signed an arbitration agreement.
You can move your claim forward by getting experienced legal assistance from the team at AM&F LLP. Schedule your consultation to learn how our expert attorneys can help you fight back against sexual harassment today.