California Sues Tesla, Alleging Racial Discrimination and Harassment

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), a California state agency, sued Tesla in state court on Wednesday, accusing the company of discriminating against its Black workers in job assignments, discipline, pay, and promotions. The complaint also alleges that Black workers at Tesla’s Fremont, California factory are harassed with racist remarks and slurs. DFEH stated that it had received hundreds of complaints from Tesla workers before filing the suit.

According to the lawsuit, “A common narrative was Black and/or African American workers being taunted by racial slurs and then baited into verbal and physical confrontations, where they, in turn, were the ones disciplined for being purportedly ‘aggressive’ or ‘threatening.’”

Tesla requires many of its workers to sign arbitration agreements which mandate that they bring claims against the automaker in arbitration rather than court. DFEH is not bound by that agreement.

This is not the first time Tesla has been accused of discrimination and harassment.

In October 2021, Tesla was ordered to pay almost $137 million to a Black former worker who experienced similar racial discrimination and harassment at the Fremont plant. Owen Diaz, a contract elevator operator at the Fremont plant from 2015 to 2016, said in his suit that he and other workers were called the N-word, that he was told to “go back to Africa,” and that workers drew swastikas and racist caricatures around the factory.

In the winter of 2021, multiple women filed lawsuits accusing Tesla of fostering an environment of sexual harassment at the Fremont factory. Those complaints alleged regular catcalling, unwanted advances, physical contact, and discrimination.

Additional Reading

California sues Tesla over allegations of racial discrimination, Reuters (February 10, 2022)

California sues Tesla, alleging racial discrimination and harassment, The Washington Post (February 9, 2022)

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