The lawsuit claims Black Tesla workers at the company’s Fremont plant endure regular racial harassment.
A labor discrimination case against Tesla is expected to move to trial next week.
According to Bloomberg, about 10,000 people work in Tesla’s Fremont, California plant. While the city and its surroundings are among the most diverse in the United States, some Tesla employees have claimed the company does not treat its workers equally.
Owen Diaz, a Tesla contractor, filed a lawsuit against the company several years ago. In it, Diaz—who is African-American—claimed factory management regularly harassed him and other minority workers. Diaz says that some shift supervisors regularly used the “n-word” while speaking to and about Black employees.
Diaz says that other Tesla workers were abusive, too. Diaz claims that co-workers told him to “go back to Africa,” and drew racist caricatures and sketches inside bathroom stalls and on the sides of cardboard boxes.
While Tesla has been accused of discriminating against non-White workers before, few cases have made it to trial. As Bloomberg.com reports, the “vast majority” of Tesla employees sign binding arbitration agreements.
However, not everyone who works at Tesla is really an employee. Diaz, for instance, is a contractor, assigned to Tesla by a staffing agency.
Bloomberg.com notes that Tesla’s issues “predate the rise of Black Lives Matter and the murder of George Floyd.”
In 2017, another Black Tesla employee—Marcus Vaughn—similarly claimed that employees and supervisors in the company’s Fremont plant regularly used racial slurs.
Melvin Berry, too, is suing Tesla. In his lawsuit, Berry also said use of the “n-word” is common in the company’s Fremont facility, and that the property itself regularly features neo-Nazi- and Ku Klux Klan-inspired graffiti.
Tesla garnered some criticism for responding to Vaughn’s claims with what have been called a “tone-deaf” response.
Elon Musk, Tesla’s founder and CEO, said the company has endured frivolous lawsuits from minority employees who were purportedly treated better than their White counterparts.
“In fairness, if someone is a jerk to you, but sincerely apologizes, it is important to be thick-skinned and accept that apology,” Musk wrote on Twitter. “If you part of a less-represented group, you don’t get a free pass on being a jerk yourself. We have had a few cases at Tesla where someone in a less-represented group was actually given a job or promoted over more-qualified highly represented candidates and then decided to sue Tesla for millions of dollars because they felt they weren’t promoted enough. That obviously is not cool.”
Vaughn’s case, adds Bloomberg, is still being processed by an Oakland court.