US senators have sent Tesla CEO Elon Musk a letter expressing concern over reports that Tesla is using arbitration clauses in contracts to avoid public liability for rampant workplace discrimination and shocking vehicle safety lapses. This is reported by Ars Technica.
“We are deeply concerned that the arbitration agreements you impose on your workers and consumers have kept these reportedly deplorable and discriminatory conditions and potential safety flaws from the public eye and limited regulatory authorities’ ability to protect Tesla customers and employees and hold Tesla publicly accountable,” the lawmakers wrote.
In their letter, they described reports of alleged racist and sexist working conditions. At the same time, Tesla’s agreements significantly limit the extent to which details of the company’s discriminatory practices can emerge. Because of those deals, the senators said, there are likely countless other complaints that remain confidential.
They also described in their letter how Tesla’s consumer arbitration agreements have created a “black box” around drivers’ concerns about the safety of Tesla vehicles. The senators said that while the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has documented some safety issues with the beta version of Tesla’s fully self-driving software that increase the risk of crashes, it is not known what private arrangements Tesla may have made to keep its cars safe.
US lawmakers have also criticized Musk’s claims of comprehensive security testing and a strict internal development process that supposedly help ensure the company’s technology is safe.
“Let us be clear: your so-called safety review is a sham,” the senators wrote.
With that in mind, the senators are asking Musk to answer several questions by June 8. They want to know how many employee complaints of racial harassment, discrimination, retaliation and sexual harassment Tesla has received over the past decade, and how many the company has paid out and settled. They also asked for information on the safety of cars Tesla has produced since 2012. And they called on the company to commit to no longer including arbitration clauses in contracts with employees and consumers and not to file motions to compel arbitration of new lawsuits against it in court.
Among the signatories of the letter are Bernie Sanders (Virginia), Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut), Edward Markey (Massachusetts), Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts), Jeffrey Merkley (Oregon), Richard Durbin (Illinois), Sherrod Brown (Ohio).
We will remind that Elon Musk will probably have to to testify for three hours in the trial of the 2018 Tesla crash involving Autopilot. He may have to answer questions about the crash that killed Apple engineer Walter Huang when his Model X swerved into the middle of a highway south of San Francisco.