In February, AJ Vandermeyden came forward with allegations of sexual harassment and pay discrimination at Tesla, where she was one of few women engineers. Tesla claimed at the time that they hired an independent investigator who determined Vandermeyden’s assertions were baseless. She’s since been fired.
The Guardian reports that Vandemeyden’s attorney, Therese Lawless (who also represented former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao in her discrimination suit), believes the firing to be retaliatory. In a statement, Tesla doesn’t do much to dispel that idea, reiterating that Vandemeyden’s claims of sexism in the workplace were false, and confirming that her pursuit of legal action at the company is in fact why they fired her:
“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,” a Tesla spokesperson said. “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.”
One of Vandemeyden’s claims was that male co-workers were given raises and promoted over more qualified women, which Tesla contests, saying she was “given special treatment and opportunities for advancement that were unwarranted based on her qualifications.”
The company insists that ending her employment is entirely a result of her “false” claims and the interview she gave the Guardian on her case in February. The spokesperson for Tesla added, “It is impossible to trust anyone after they have behaved in such a manner and therefore continued employment is also impossible.”
Lawless will be filing a retaliation complaint against Tesla on behalf of Vandemeyden. “It is illegal in the state of California for an employer to retaliate against an employee who asserts her rights,” explained Lawless, “Including her rights to receive equal pay as her male colleagues.”