Tesla Inc. Powerpacks and inverters stand at the Southern California Edison Co. Mira Loma energy storage system facility in Ontario, California, U.S. (Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg)

Ex-Tesla Worker Accuses Musk of Smearing Him as Saboteur

(Bloomberg) -- A former Tesla Inc. battery factory employee portrayed by Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk as a saboteur fired back with a lawsuit accusing Musk of smearing him in the media.

Martin Tripp, who was a process engineering technician at Tesla’s massive factory in Nevada, has traded legal volleys with the electric-car maker since leaving in June. Tripp was sued by the company over claims that he tried to make off with trade secrets after being denied a promotion. He, in turn, filed a whistle-blower complaint with the SEC claiming Tesla made misstatements and omissions to investors.

In his latest complaint, filed Tuesday in federal court in Reno, Nevada, Tripp said Musk made false and defamatory statements about him to the media, including that Tripp had sent Musk a threatening email and planned to shoot up the gigafactory. He also denied Tesla’s claim that he misappropriated company proprietary information.

He’s asking for at least $1 million in damages from Tesla. Tripp is seeking $500,000 in financial support on a GoFundMe page to defend himself against Tesla’s lawsuit and has raised about $15,000, according to the website.

Tripp said in Tuesday’s complaint that he emailed Musk in May to warn him about the high levels of waste and scrap that were being generated at the gigafactory. Musk was scheduled to visit the facility that evening.

Later that afternoon, Tripp said, his manager asked for a copy of the email to Musk, so that he could avoid getting fired.

“After Mr. Tripp asked why the manufacturing engineer manager would get fired, the manufacturing engineer manager explained: ‘Because I’m the guy showing him the line and our problems like yield, the guy standing in front of him is the guy who gets fired, and tonight I’m the guy in front of him,’” according to the complaint.

The case is Tesla Inc. v. Tripp, 3:18-cv-00296, U.S. District Court, District of Nevada (Reno).

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