Even though Tesla has shifted its headquarters to Texas, the company believes that California is preparing a racial discrimination lawsuit against its in-state facilities.
Tesla is expecting the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing to file a lawsuit alleging systematic racial discrimination and harassment at its Fremont manufacturing plant.
According to Bloomberg, employees and contractors at the facility have filed no fewer than 50 related complaints in the past five years. While the D.F.E.H. closed each complaint without any finding of wrongdoing, Tesla nonetheless expects California to take legal action.
Earlier this week, Tesla said that the state issued a notice-of-cause finding to the company. While the details of any possible lawsuit have yet to be released, Tesla believes that that the agency is focusing on complaints filed between 2015 and 2019.
Bloomberg notes that the Fremont plant has attracted significant scrutiny. Former workers have filed their own lawsuits against Tesla, suggesting that racial discrimination, sexual harassment, and abuse are commonplace.
However, few cases have managed to make it to court: Tesla requires most its workers to sign arbitration clauses, which require that workplace disputes be settled outside of court by a third-party mediator.
If the Department of Fair Employment and Housing moves ahead with its planned lawsuit, Tesla may ask a California court to pause proceedings.
The company’s chief executive, Elon Musk, has already voiced skepticism about Tesla’s future operations in the state.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Musk said he might move the company’s headquarters to Texas to avoid coronavirus-related work restrictions.
Late last year, Tesla followed through on its threat, shifting its headquarters to Austin, Texas.
However, Tesla still retains numerous facilities in California, including a manufacturing plant in Fremont, a research and development center in Paolo Alto, and a design institute in Hawthorne.
Despite the mounting legal pressure, Tesla maintains that its presence has been a boon for Californians and the state’s economy.
“No company has done more for sustainability or the creation of clean-energy jobs than Tesla,” the company said in a statement. “At a time when manufacturing jobs are leaving California, DFEH has decided to sue Tesla instead of constructively working with us.”
CNBC notes that Tesla is no stranger to litigation. Last October, a San Francisco-based federal court awarded a Black worker $137 million after he claimed he was subjected to a hostile work environment in which other employees regularly used racial epithets and told him to “go back to Africa.”
Another former Tesla worker, Melvin Berry, was also awarded $1 million in damages after complaining about similar experiences.