Tesla Sued for Severe Harassment of Black Workers at California Plant – The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has taken legal action against Tesla, alleging that the electric car manufacturer has allowed the persistent harassment of Black employees at its primary California assembly facility. According to the lawsuit filed in federal court on Thursday, the EEOC asserts that from 2015 until now, Black workers at Tesla’s Fremont plant have frequently faced racist slurs and offensive graffiti, which includes swastikas and nooses.
The EEOC alleges that Tesla neglected to investigate complaints of racial misconduct, terminated or took adverse actions against employees who reported harassment, and has now brought federal charges to supplement previous discrimination allegations made by the state of California and Tesla workers. This lawsuit comes after settlement discussions with the EEOC broke down following Tesla’s formal acknowledgment of the agency’s concerns last year.
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Tesla is currently facing multiple race discrimination lawsuits with similar claims, including a class-action lawsuit by Fremont plant workers and a lawsuit filed by a California civil rights agency. The company has consistently stated that it has zero tolerance for discrimination and treats employee complaints with utmost seriousness. “If the federal government gets involved, it certainly adds credibility to the claims,” said Stephen Diamond, a law professor at Santa Clara University, who noted that he has advised investors on social responsibility at Tesla.
“Major institutional investors like pension funds will be very concerned about this type of behavior,” he said. In the lawsuit, it is mentioned that the EEOC initiated an investigation into Tesla following an internal complaint filed against the company by Charlotte Burrows, the chair of the five-member commission. After finding last year that there was “reasonable cause” to believe Tesla had violated the federal law banning workplace race discrimination, the agency tried and failed to enter into a settlement agreement with the company, according to the lawsuit.
Burrows in a statement said combating widespread workplace harassment is a key priority for the EEOC. “Every employee deserves to have their civil rights respected, and no worker should endure the kind of shameful racial bigotry our investigation revealed,” she said. The EEOC has filed a lawsuit aiming to obtain compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of undisclosed Black employees. Additionally, they are seeking an injunction that would require Tesla to revamp its policies regarding discrimination and retaliation.
Tesla is currently defending itself against similar allegations made by the California civil rights department, which claims that Tesla engaged in discriminatory practices against Black workers in relation to pay, promotions, and job assignments. Last year, a California judge rejected Tesla’s attempt to have the case dismissed. Tesla has contended that the California department’s lawsuit is politically motivated and has argued that the agency violated state law by filing the suit without prior notification of all the claims or an opportunity for settlement.
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Furthermore, a former Black elevator operator at the Fremont plant, Owen Diaz, is pursuing a third trial in his 2017 lawsuit, asserting that he faced severe racial harassment. In April, a jury awarded him $3.2 million, but a federal judge deemed this amount excessive, leading Diaz to opt for a new trial instead of a reduced award of $15 million. Tesla is also entangled in a class-action lawsuit in California state court, involving approximately 240 workers who have joined the suit, alleging mistreatment of Black factory workers.