Lawsuit: At Tesla, racial discrimination is ‘standard operating procedure’

Enlarge / Tesla factory in Fremont, California, seen on April 20, 2022.

Getty Images | justin sullivan

Tesla is facing a new racial discrimination lawsuit filed by 15 factory employees who allege that Tesla’s “standard operating procedures include blatant, overt and unmitigated racial discrimination.” Harassment and racial discrimination are “endemic” at Tesla, and the company has done “nothing or little to reasonably prevent or stop this toxic behavior and work environment,” the lawsuit says.

The plaintiffs include nine men and six women who work or have worked at Tesla factories in California. About half of the plaintiffs have been terminated or resigned, while the rest are still working at Tesla.

“The plaintiffs, who [are] African-American employees have been subjected daily to offensive racist comments and offensive racist behavior and disciplinary action from co-workers, managers, supervisors, managers and/or human resources personnel,” states the complaint. The complaint alleges that an April 2021 incident at the home of Tesla CEO Elon Musk led to the firing of one of the complainants on the same day.

The complaint is seeking damages and was filed Thursday in Alameda County Superior Court. “Throughout their employment with Tesla, the Complainants were the target of harassment because of their race. The harassment included being called [variations of the n-word]’Boy’ and other racist terms on a regular basis, as well as observing other employees enduring the same treatment,” the complaint reads. A plaintiff who worked at Tesla’s Fremont factory for a month in 2022 alleged that the “harassment included using the terms ‘Blackies’ or ‘Darkies’ to address African-American workers.”

There was also “racist graffiti, including, but not limited to, [variations of the n-word]“KKK” and swastikas written on the walls of Tesla restrooms, restroom stalls, lockers, benches, workstations, break rooms, and tables,” the lawsuit said. all at once, without Tesla bothering to remove them or fix the problem.”

Tesla accused of violating labor and civil rights laws

The lawsuit said black workers were repeatedly denied promotions while other less qualified employees rose through the ranks. Minorities were also “assigned to the most physically demanding positions at Tesla compared to non-minority workers who were given more technical and less physical tasks,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit accuses Tesla of racial discrimination; racial harassment; reprisals; failure to prevent discrimination and harassment; negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress; negligent hiring, retention and supervision; Bad termination; and implied termination in cases where employees had “no choice but to quit.” Tesla’s actions violated California labor law and Unruh civil rights law, according to the complaint.

In addition to Tesla, the lawsuit includes dozens of defendants who have worked for the company as managers, supervisors or supervisors, or in human resources. Most defendants are referred to by placeholder names “Doe” or “Roe”. We contacted Tesla about the lawsuit today and will update this article if we get a response.

Alleged incident at Musk’s home

Plaintiff Nathaniel Aziel Gonsalves worked at Tesla’s Foster City factory from February 2013 until his termination in April 2021. Gonsalves “was forced to keep his head down and endure the racially discriminatory comments he received. did Tesla supervisors and managers,” the lawsuit states. His supervisor, identified as the accused Clinton Doe, “repeatedly made racially discriminatory comments to Gonsalves, stating that Gonsalves ‘wasn’t like most black people,’ that he ‘didn’t act in the ghetto” and further called him a “zebra” because he was “neither black nor white”.

Gonsalves complained of discriminatory behavior in September 2020 and October 2020 but “no action was taken by management authorities in response” to either complaint, according to the lawsuit. He was “suddenly fired” in April 2021 after nine years with the company.

Gonsalves’ allegations contain the lawsuit’s only direct reference to Tesla CEO Elon Musk. The complaint describes an incident at Musk’s home that allegedly led to Gonsalves being fired:

On the day Gonsalves was fired, Tesla employee “Cory” was working on the solar panels in the home of Tesla owner Elon Musk. While Cory was at Musk, Cory accused Gonsalves of protecting and/or favoring minorities and being prejudicial [sic] against other races. Despite the seriousness of these accusations, Tesla refused to conduct any investigations or interviews; instead, Tesla fired Gonsalves within two hours of Cory’s conversation with Musk.

When Gonsalves demanded an explanation for his dismissal, a human resources representative and his regional manager “casually stated that the decision to fire Gonsalves ‘came from the top’ and there was nothing they could do,” the complaint states. .

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