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Tesla employee says rap music made workplace hostile

A former Tesla employee has filed a federal lawsuit in Nevada, alleging that the company subjected her to a sexually hostile work environment, including obscene rap music and inappropriate actions from a coworker.

Regarding the music, the suit claims that Tesla allowed its employees to play loud rap and hip hop music that was “replete with foul, misogynistic terms” (e.g., frequently referring to women as “bitches”) as well as graphic sexual references. Because management often heard the music and allowed it, the suit alleges the defendant “implicitly repudiated the written sexual harassment policy which it claimed to have in force.”

The plaintiff, Shauna Israel, also alleges a coworker stalked her in the workplace, made repeated sexual remarks, and touched her in unwanted and offensive ways. According to the suit, Israel made repeated complaints to HR about both the coworker and the “abusive music.”

Management made no move to curb the music. As for the inappropriate coworker, Israel alleges HR told her to arrange her work duties to avoid him and to make sure she had a colleague with her when she couldn’t, the suit says. Israel alleges the environment was so hostile she was forced to quit.

Notably, the issue of whether music can create a hostile work environment is already pending in Nevada before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In the case of Sharp v. S&S Activewear, male and female plaintiffs both claimed that they were subjected to graphic and misogynistic music.

A lower court reasoned that the plaintiffs could not claim sex discrimination because the music was offensive to both men and women. That case is under appeal.

With two cases pending, some legal analysts are pointing to the risk of allowing certain music to be played in the workplace. While the pending cases focus on sex discrimination, some music also contains racially charged language.

Employers may want to review their workplace policies to address potentially offensive music before they face an employee complaint.