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Tesla is latest company to face scrutiny for hostile workplace

As women step forward to talk about mistreatment at their jobs, tech companies will have to contend with the added attention.

Logo of a Tesla Motors store in Hangzhou downtown.  Tesla

Tesla's the latest company to deal with accounts of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Zhang Peng/Getty Images

Tech loves its tipping points. The latest might just be the industry's attitude toward sexual assault and harassment.

The Guardian published an article Wednesday describing a town hall meeting at car company Tesla where multiple women addressed themselves to a panel of executives and complained of being sexually harassed, passed up for promotions, and being mistreated by their male managers. It's just the latest example of a tech company facing increased scrutiny about its treatment of female employees.

The Guardian story follows a New York Times report published last week detailing the experiences of women in the venture capital world dealing with sexual harassment from male investors such as early Twitter and Uber investor Chris Sacca and 500 Startups' Dave McClure. Sacca wrote an apology on Medium before the story ran. McClure wrote his own apology later, and over the weekend resigned. Late June also saw other departures, like Justin Caldbeck of venture firm Binary Capital, who left after The Information published a story detailing him making sexual advances to women founders, among other things.

While there have been others in the past who have spoken out about their experiences at different tech companies, there seems to be some momentum building. 

Whether we'll be seeing a continued flow of similar stories, remains to be seen. Anita Borg Institute Senior VP Elizabeth Ames, whose organization is aimed at the advancement of women in computer science, said she's been hearing these types of stories for years.

"There are more women feeling it's worthwhile [to speak up] and they should rather than stay silent," she said.

In Tesla's case, The Guardian reported on an event held by an internal employee group called Women in Tesla that turned up multiple complaints from women -- one even referring to the company's Fremont, California, factory as a "predator zone."

"The topics raised in this meeting were followed up directly with those willing to discuss. We have a no-tolerance policy and have made changes to leadership, policy and training to continue to improve our work environment," Tesla said in a statement, also saying that it holds events like the town hall regularly in order to hear directly from employees.

In addition, the company noted that the town hall included a broader range of topics discussed, aside from claims of harassment, and that concerns expressed have been followed up on. 

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