California Civil Rights Regulator Sues Tesla for Discrimination against Factory Employees

Tesla represents an innovative concept allowing electric cars to travel 265 miles between recharging.

By Neha Malhi and Sahaily Zazueta

ALAMEDA, CA – California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing has filed a civil lawsuit against Tesla for racial discrimination and harassment, according to Times Magazine late last week.

This lawsuit comes as a result of a three-year investigation into Tesla’s factory in Fremont, which found a widespread pattern of mistreatment of Black factory workers, said Time.

During the investigation, the state’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing had received hundreds of employee complaints from the Tesla factory and found evidence that Tesla’s factory in Fremont is a “racially segregated workplace.”

California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed the civil complaint in Alameda Superior Court.

The complaint states, “Segregation at the Fremont factory, along with the absence of Black and/or African Americans in leadership roles, has left many complaints of rampant racism unchecked for years.”

According to the lawsuit, Black workers were intimidated by other workers with tattoos of the Confederate flag. Some workers also referred to the factory as the “slaveship” or the “the plantation”, with additions of other slurs.

The pleading notes, “One Black worker heard these racial slurs as often as 50-100 times a day.”

The complaint specifies several instances of anti-Black discrimination against Black factory workers, stating, “As early as 2012, Black and/or African American Tesla workers have complained that Tesla production leads, supervisors, and managers constantly use the n-word and other racial slurs to refer to Black workers.”

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing stated it attempted to work with Tesla before resorting to litigation, but Tesla did not agree to the department’s attempts at mediation.

In a Feb. 8 blog post titled “The DFEH’s Misguided Lawsuit” posted on the company’s official website, Tesla stated that it “will be asking the court to pause the case and take other steps to ensure that facts and evidence will be heard.”

Tesla said that DFEH has received 50 requests over the span of last five years to investigate the company by individuals who believe that they have been discriminated against or harassed. And, every time, every single occasion, Tesla claims the DFEH has closed its investigation without a finding of misconduct against Tesla.

In his defense, Tesla claims the statement by the DFEH–that systematic racial discrimination and harassment exists at the company – is not credible.

Tesla’s company blog also stated that, “Tesla has always disciplined and terminated employees who engage in misconduct, including those who use racial slurs or harass others in different ways.”

Tesla’s post called this lawsuit, “unfair and counterproductive” and argues, “A narrative spun by the DFEH and a handful of plaintiff firms to generate publicity is not factual proof.”

The case is Department of Fair Employment and Housing v. Tesla Inc., 22CV006830, California Superior Court, Alameda County.

About The Author

Neha Malhi is graduating from UCLA this summer with BA in Economics. she is from LA, California.

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5 Comments

  1. Keith Olson

    Fair article where both sides of the issue were presented.  Tesla has already moved much of its operation to Texas because of California policies, now with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing filing a lawsuit against them I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re considering moving the rest of the company.

    African American Tesla workers have complained that Tesla production leads, supervisors, and managers constantly use the n-word and other racial slurs to refer to Black workers

    Pretty sure I heard that word being sung at last night’s Super Bowl halftime show on national TV.

    1. Alan Miller

      Pretty sure I heard that word being sung at last night’s Super Bowl halftime show on national TV.

      Seriously?

      Are there stadium-cam shots of famous white people in the box seats singing along?

  2. Ron Oertel

    The photo (and its caption) don’t “match” the content of the article very well.

    By the way, where’s the front license plate on that car? (I’ve heard that there’s no good place to mount one on a Tesla, and I’m not seeing a bracket to accommodate one in that photo.)

    Maybe they don’t require them in Texas? 🙂

    Though I suspect California drivers purchase a disproportionate share of them.

    1. Ron Oertel

      Or, maybe they figure that only white, wealthy “tech bros” buy these things, and we all know that police don’t enforce traffic laws against white people, right?

      (Just going-along with the program, here.)  🙂

      Though truth be told, I don’t know if whites comprise the majority of the tech bros. Seems to me that they sometimes recruit from other countries where they focus on STEM more successfully. Not to mention groups in this country, which might focus on STEM more than whites do.

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