Sunday Read: Recognizing Tesla Whistleblowers

  1. Christina Balan, a former Tesla Engineer, reported concerns about safety and business practices at Tesla. Balan’s concerns about the potential safety hazards in the then-upcoming Model S luxury sedan, and about contracts she believed were awarded more on friendships with suppliers than on quality and price in 2014. According to Balan, rather than fix the problem, Tesla forced her to quit. And, in 2019 the Company accused Balan of breaking the law. Since then, Balan has been in court fighting Tesla’s attempt to use arbitration clauses in her contract to silence her retaliation suit..
  2. Jessica Barraza, a former Tesla factory employee, was forced to endure sexual harassment so severe that it resulted in a Post-Traumatic Stress disorder diagnosis. Barraza sued the company, and her suit inspired others to come forward. An article from The Verge described part of the reason Barraza’s case gave way to slew of others: “Lawsuits against Tesla are relatively rare in part because, as Barraza’s lawsuit notes, the company requires employees to sign arbitration agreements as a condition of employment, meaning the workers waive their right to a jury or court trial.”
  3. Michala Curran, a Tesla factory employee, alleged sexually harassment starting in her first week at the Tesla factory. As a result, she joined a lawsuit brought by a group of her colleagues. According to Curran, Tesla pushed her out of court and into arbitration, much like Balan. Curran is just one example of the rampant harassment Tesla factory employees face.
  4. Owen Diaz, a former employee at a Tesla factory in Fremont California was subjected to unbearable racial harassment at the factory and sued. In 2022, Mr. Diaz’s settlement was reduced after Tesla contested the $137 million awarded granted him by a jury. The Guardian reported employee complaints about work conditions at the Freemont California Tesla factory and “allegations of mandatory overtime, high rates of injury and low wages at the factory,” in 2017, and since then there have been continuous concerning reports about conditions at the factory. Jessica Barraza, was also a Fremont employee.
  5. Karl Hansen, a former Tesla employee blew the whistle at Tesla’s Gigafactory alleging theft of raw materials, surveillance of Tesla employees, and drug trafficking activities at the factory in 2018. Mr. Hansen’s whistleblowing was followed by the elimination of his role. And, Elon Musk sent a message to a major news outlet disparaging Hansen. In 2022, a District Court in Nevada mandated Mr. Hansen to go through Tesla’s arbitration process and stayed his whistleblower claims.
  6. Martin Tripp, a former Tesla employee, filed a complaint with the SEC outlining concerns about Tesla batteries, and was subsequently sued by Tesla. Tesla prevailed in their case against Tripp the court required hi, to pay the company $400,000 for trade secret violations arising out of information he shared with the press — this is yet another example of media whistleblowers lacking protection and why NWC has called for more explicit recognition of media whistleblowers in our SEC petition.

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National Whistleblower Center

National Whistleblower Center

National Whistleblower Center is the leading nonprofit working with whistleblowers around the world to fight corruption and protect people and the environment.