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California sues Tesla citing ‘hundreds’ of racism complaints in factory


By Matt McFarland, CNN Business

A California civil rights agency filed a lawsuit against Tesla Wednesday alleging racism and harassment at the automaker’s Fremont manufacturing plant.

Earlier Wednesday Tesla called the lawsuit “misguided” and objected to the claims.

“Tesla strongly opposes all forms of discrimination and harassment,” the automaker said in its blog post. “Tesla continues to seek to provide a workplace that is safe, respectful, fair, and inclusive.”

Kevin Kish, director of the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, said in a statement that the agency had received “hundreds” of complaints from workers.

“[We] found evidence that Tesla’s Fremont factory is a racially segregated workplace where Black workers are subjected to racial slurs and discriminated against in job assignments, discipline, pay, and promotion creating a hostile work environment,” Kish said.

The workers’ complaints have been filed with the agency over almost a decade, according to the lawsuit. It is the latest in a series of allegations of racism at Tesla that have surfaced in recent years.

Owen Diaz, a former Tesla worker, was awarded $136.9 million last year after a jury concluded he was subject to a racially hostile workplace. Kaylen Barker, a Black woman who worked at a Tesla plant in Lathrop, California, filed a lawsuit last week claiming Tesla tolerates “rampant acts of racism.”

Tesla did not respond to CNN’s request for comment Thursday.

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing’s lawsuit alleges that workers heard racial slurs throughout the day and saw racist graffiti in restrooms, work stations and lunch tables.

“One Black worker observed ‘hang N[ ]’ penned next to a drawing of a noose in the breakroom restroom. This worker also saw ‘all monkeys work outside,'” the lawsuit claims.

Black workers described the Fremont factory as racially segregated, and areas where Black people worked were referred to as “the dark side,” the lawsuit said.

Black workers were allegedly taunted with slurs that led to verbal and physical confrontations, for which they were then disciplined for being aggressive or threatening, the lawsuit says. Some Black workers resigned during investigations because they lacked confidence that Tesla’s human resources department would be fair, according to the lawsuit.

Black workers were more likely to be denied promotions, the lawsuit alleges. Black people make up 10% of Tesla’s US workforce, but only 4% of its US workforce leadership, according to Tesla’s 2020 diversity, equity and inclusion report.

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