Three former contractors in the employ of Tesla filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging racial discrimination and harassment.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the plaintiffs – Demetric Diaz, his father, Owen Diaz, and Lamar Peterson – say they were the target of “racially motivated abuse, including the frequent use of racial slurs” while working at a Tesla plant.
All of the plaintiffs are black and say their race became the focal point of their interactions with colleagues and supervisors. They say they were told to “Go back to Africa” and that they weren’t “wanted” around the workplace.
Some of Tesla’s other employees purportedly left “racist caricatures and images” around the factory, in the hope of offending the plaintiffs and other black workers.
Despite complaining to their superiors as well as their staffing agency, the plaintiffs say that no action was taken to either investigate the abuse or punish those responsible.
The LA Times article on the suit recounts Tesla’s reaction to the litigation.
Representatives for the company said that they take “any and every form of discrimination or harassment extremely seriously,” and that they were only made aware of the allegations after being contacted by media outlets.
“In situations where Tesla is at fault, we will never seek to avoid responsibility,” they said. “But in this instance, from what we know so far, this does not seem to be such a case.”
Diaz claims to have reported the alleged abuse to one of his managers in 2015.
Several days later, he says, he was issued a written warning for using his cell phone on the assembly line. Within one week after that, he was terminated from his position, despite other employees with similar infractions not suffering the same punishment.
Diaz’s father, Diaz, also claims to have been ignored after reporting racial harassment.
Both Diaz and Patterson quit their jobs as Tesla contractors in 2016, claiming they couldn’t cope with the hostile work environment.
In July, Patterson filed a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing about his purported troubles at Tesla. The complaint was later closed when he indicated his intent and requested authorization to file a lawsuit.
According to Tesla, and as reported by the LA Times, the only record Tesla has of any filed complaint is a 2015 e-mail from Diaz to one of his supervisors. In the message, Diaz reported that a coworker was making “aggressive” comments, but did not specify or make “mention of the use of any racist language.”
Tesla says it recently launched a new online anti-discrimination and harassment training program to investigate employee problems and complaints.
“We will never be able to stop every single person in the factory from engaging in inappropriate conduct, but we will continue to do everything that we can to encourage the right behavior and to take action whenever something bad happens,” Tesla said.