In February, 33-year-old Tesla engineer AJ Vandermeyden spoke out and accused the company of ignoring her claims of "unwelcome and pervasive harassment,” unequal pay, and discrimination.
This week, she got fired.
A Tesla spokesperson told Fortune that Vandermeyden was terminated because her allegations were thoroughly investigated by the company itself along with the help of “a neutral, third-party expert” and ultimately deemed illegitimate. Her lawyers are saying her termination was retaliatory, while Tesla claims it was justified.
“Ms. Vandermeyden nonetheless chose to pursue a miscarriage of justice by suing Tesla and falsely attacking our company in the press,” the Tesla spokesperson said, adding that the company had “no choice but to end her employment at Tesla.”
Vandermeyden had been at Tesla for almost four years before she filed the discrimination lawsuit against the automaker in 2016. She claims she was subject to catcalling, inappropriate language, and whistling in the workplace. Her attorney, Therese Lawless, told the Guardian that her client is “devastated” by the termination.
“They’ve just proven our case. It’s clear retaliation,” she added. “Somebody is trying to instill in employees that when they speak out about matters they are legally allowed to speak out about, they too will be fired.”
Gabrielle Toledano, Tesla’s new global head of human resources, delivered the news of Vandermeyden’s termination in person. The spokesperson denies that the decision was based on retaliation of the lawsuit.
“It is impossible to trust anyone after they have behaved in such a manner, and therefore continued employment is also impossible,” the Tesla spokesperson said.
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The story of Vandermeyden’s allegation emerged days after former engineer Susan J. Fowler published a blog post detailing the sexual harassment she says she experienced while at Uber.
At the time, Vandermeyden said, “Until somebody stands up, nothing is going to change. I’m an advocate of Tesla. I really do believe they are doing great things. That said, I can’t turn a blind eye if there’s something fundamentally wrong going on.”