By Daniel Wiessner
(Reuters) -Tesla Inc has asked a U.S. court to affirm an arbitrator’s recent decision dismissing a former engineer’s claims that the automaker fired and defamed her for raising concerns about defective floormats and contracting practices.
In a petition filed in San Francisco federal court on Thursday, Tesla said an arbitrator in a Nov. 3 decision found Cristina Balan’s claims that the company falsely accused her of criminal conduct in response to a 2017 Huffington Post article about her firing were untimely.
In March, a California-based appeals court ruled that Balan was required to arbitrate the defamation claims because they were directly related to her employment with Tesla.
The company on Thursday asked the court to confirm the arbitrator’s decision, which opens the door for Balan to challenge it.
Balan said in an email on Friday that she would seek to vacate the arbitration award “due to fraud, corruption, bias … and manifest disregard for the law.”
In a 2019 lawsuit, Balan said she was fired shortly after sending an email to Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk claiming contracts were being awarded based on friendships regardless of price or quality.
Balan had also raised concerns about floormats in Tesla’s Model S curling up under the pedals.
In a statement provided to the Huffington Post about Balan’s case, Tesla claimed she was fired for using company time to work on a personal project and illegally recording conversations with colleagues.
Tesla had lauded Balan’s work prior to her firing, including crediting her with perfecting a design for a battery pack, according to court filings.
(Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in New York; Editing by Andrea Ricci, Dan Grebler and Daniel Wallis)