Former employees of Tesla-owned SolarCity have alleged in a lawsuit that the company reported millions in fake sales in order to overvalue the company for investors.
Three former SolarCity employees have reportedly sued both SolarCity and its parent company Tesla, alleging that the solar panel manufacturer took part in serious corporate misbehavior. According to the former employees, SolarCity approved the creation of “fake sales accounts” which resulted in “unjustified bonuses” for employees and caused an “unreasonably high valuation of SolarCity.” The former employees also allege that they faced severe harassment and discrimination leading up to their one year tenure ending in 2017.
The lawsuit, which was filed last Wednesday in San Diego County Superior Court, alleges that Staples reported the cases of harassment and the fraudulent corporate practices to various higher-ups at the company, including CEO Elon Musk, but none took action on the issues. Staples was terminated from the company in May 2017 in an act which he believes was in retaliation for his reports of misconduct. The other plaintiffs in the case, Robert Ray, and Anquetta White also claim to have made similar complaints to managers but were fired shortly after filing complaints.
Ars Technica reports that an individual with knowledge of the case believes that “thousands” of fake SolarCity accounts could have been created by requesting solar panels for homes that did not exist. These fake deals reportedly resulted in tens of hundreds of millions of dollars in fake revenue. The person alleges that more than a dozen individuals reported these practices to the companies HR department and even directly told CEO Elon Musk who never replied or commented on the issue.
The former San Diego employee alleged that SolarCity was also run like a “struggling startup” despite having been in business for some time. The individual claimed that employees had to deal with faulty electrical plugins, faulty office lighting and even cutbacks on cream and sugar for coffee in the shared break room, “Everything else behind the scenes was just crap,” he said.
Former Tesla employee Michael Beardsley claims to have been “witness” to many of the allegations in the lawsuit and was able to provide copies of emails that Staples sent to HR. “I really appreciate you taking the time and effort,” Staples allegedly wrote on April 14, 2017. “I have voiced my concerns in the past to management, but I haven’t received a response and the seemingly unethical behavior by some on the team hasn’t changed. I can put up with a lot, but to have people that I’m mentoring become frustrated, and some who have come to me in tears over these issues and others disturbs me. I’m concerned that those who are truly putting in the effort and who are upstanding individuals are becoming disheartened.”
Beardsley also claimed that they were sent “incendiary pictures, memes and even pictures of female employees in their panties, etc.” providing Ars Technica with one such photo which allegedly featured a female colleague dressed in a bra and underwear, running across a lawn at night. The other former San Diego employee said that he had received the same image that Beardsley was sent from a different female colleague. “I’ve never worked in an environment this unprofessional,” he said.
Andrew Staples, the lead plaintiff in the case brought against SolarCity, alleges that he was “repeatedly and continuously” harassed over his sexuality by another department supervisor. Staples is gay and believes that he was harassed partly due to his sexuality. “Specifically, this supervising employee continuously harassed Plaintiff Staples by calling him things like ‘bitch,’ ‘pussy’ and ‘faggot,’” wrote Staples lawyers. “These comments were made to Staples on numerous different days throughout his employment.”