An increasingly murky legal battle has pitted one-time Tesla safety director Carlos Ramirez against his former employer.
In his lawsuit against the automaker, Ramirez claims he was terminated after exposing improper logging of workplace injuries, lending weight to a report published by Reveal earlier this year. Tesla says Ramirez’s firing had nothing to do with his safety findings and everything to do with his behavior towards fellow employees.
The lawsuit, exposed by Jalopnik, claims that Ramirez, who took on the role of Director of Environmental, Health, Safety, and Sustainability at Tesla after serving a similar function at Tesla subsidiary SolarCity, was terminated after presenting the results of a safety audit of the automaker’s Fremont, California assembly plant.
Ramirez had been asked to create a safety program for the plant. In the suit, he says trouble arose after an audit of the Tesla Incident Reporting System showed “numerous instances of lack of treatment of Tesla employees that suffered workplace injuries, recordkeeping violations, and improper classification of workplace injuries to avoid treating and reporting workplace injuries.”
In addition to the alleged injury reporting discrepancies, Ramirez claims the Fremont plant was home to unsafe working conditions, which included oil spills and chemical fires.
The former safety director says, after revealing his findings to Tesla at a May 7, 2017 meeting, the automaker “made allegedly untrue statements to the state and the public based on incorrect OSHA 300 records and incident rate numbers.”
Tesla terminated Ramirez the following month. The suit alleges, “Among other adverse employment actions, Tesla wrongfully accused Plaintiff of bullying, brought unfounded complaints against him, and terminated Plaintiff’s employment on June 8, 2017.”
In a response to Jalopnik, a Tesla spokesperson said Ramirez, who was with the company for “less than four months,” was brought on to beef up the company’s safety program, and that terminating him for fulfilling this task “would make no sense.”
Instead, Tesla says the termination came about after an investigation into the claimant’s behavior.
“Mr. Ramirez was terminated because after an extensive investigation, it was clear that he had engaged over and over again in harassing workplace behavior and used extremely inappropriate language that violated any reasonable standard,” the Tesla spokesperson said. “We conducted our investigation after we received an onslaught of complaints about Mr. Ramirez’s behavior, with nearly a dozen different employees stating that he engaged in clear bullying, sought to intimidate his colleagues, and repeatedly made inappropriate comments about women.”
The company then detailed specific complaints it says were lodged against Ramirez. The claimant’s allegations of possible labor law violations went unmentioned in the statement.