San Francisco:¬†Tesla Inc.‚Äôs production floor is a ‚Äúhotbed for racist behaviour,‚ÄĚ an African-American employee claimed in a lawsuit in which he alleged black workers at the electric carmaker suffer severe and pervasive harassment.
The employee says he‚Äôs one of more than 100 African-American Tesla workers affected and is seeking permission from a judge to sue on behalf of the group. He‚Äôs seeking unspecified general and punitive monetary damages as well as an order for Tesla to implement policies to prevent and correct harassment.
‚ÄúAlthough Tesla stands out as a groundbreaking company at the forefront of the electric car revolution, its standard operating procedure at the Tesla factory is pre-Civil Rights era race discrimination,‚ÄĚ the employee said in the complaint, filed on Monday in California‚Äôs Alameda County Superior Court.
Tesla has roughly 33,000 employees globally but has never publicly released its diversity statistics. More than 10,000 people work at its sole auto-assembly plant in Fremont, California, where the United Auto Workers have launched a campaign to persuade workers to join the union. On Tesla‚Äôs most recent earnings call, chief executive officer (CEO) Elon Musk acknowledged that the company recently fired about 700 workers for low performance.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Marcus Vaughn, who worked in the Fremont factory from 23 April to 31 October. Vaughn alleged that employees and supervisors regularly used the ‚ÄúN word‚ÄĚ around him and other black colleagues. Vaughn said he complained in writing to human resources and Musk and was terminated in late October for ‚Äúnot having a positive attitude.‚ÄĚ
Tesla didn‚Äôt have an immediate comment on the lawsuit.
Larry Organ, an attorney at the California Civil Rights Law Group, said that Vaughn reached out to him after the law firm sued Tesla on behalf of other African American employees who complained about racial harassment this year.
A Tesla assembly line worker sued in March, claiming the company did little to stop co-workers from harassing him. In August, a judge sent the case to arbitration. A judge also partly granted Tesla‚Äôs request to compel arbitration in a case of a woman who sued in November 2016 complaining about pervasive harassment.
According to Monday‚Äôs complaint, Musk sent an email to Tesla factory employees on 31 May.
‚ÄúPart of not being a huge jerk is considering how someone might feel who is part of [a] historically less represented group,‚ÄĚ Musk wrote in the email. ‚ÄúSometimes these things happen unintentionally, in which case you should apologize. In fairness, if someone is a jerk to you, but sincerely apologizes, it is important to be thick-skinned and accept that apology.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThe law doesn‚Äôt require you to have a thick skin,‚ÄĚ Organ said in an interview Monday. ‚ÄúTesla is not doing enough. It‚Äôs somewhat akin to saying ‚Äėstop being politically correct.‚Äô When you have a diverse workforce, you need to take steps to make sure everyone feels welcome in that workforce.‚ÄĚ