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Tesla seeks court approval of win in engineer's defamation case



© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A logo of the electric-vehicle maker Tesla is seen near a shopping complex in Beijing, China January 5, 2021. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang/File Photo

By Daniel Wiessner

(Reuters) – Tesla Inc has asked a U.S. court to affirm its recent victory in an arbitration with a former engineer who claimed the automaker fired and defamed her for raising concerns about defective floormats and contracting practices.

Tesla in a petition filed in San Francisco federal court on Thursday said an arbitrator in a Nov. 3 decision rejected Cristina Balan’s claims that the company falsely accused her of criminal conduct in response to a 2017 Huffington Post article about her firing.

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 could open the door for Balan to challenge it.

A lawyer for Balan did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Balan in a 2019 lawsuit 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.

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