Just a few days ago, Tesla noted in a blog post that the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) is intending to file a lawsuit against the company over alleged systemic racial discrimination and harassment in the its CA facilities. The DFEH’s lawsuit has now been filed, and just as Tesla’s blog post suggested, its accusations are indeed very, very serious.
The lawsuit, which was electronically filed to the Superior Court of California, County of Alameda on February 9, 2022, pointed out that Tesla is currently the “largest and highest-profile” electric car company in the world. The suit also highlighted that “Tesla’s Fremont factory is the only nonunion major American automotive plant in the country.” And while a job at Tesla is typically seen as a “golden ticket” for those without a technical background or college degree to secure a job in tech and a path to a career and a living wage, there is segregation and a systemic racism issue prevalent in the company’s CA facilities.
The Department of Fair Employment and Housing alleges that this segregation, as well as the absence of Black and/or African Americans in leadership roles, has resulted in rampant racism being left unchecked for years.
“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. They have complained that swastikas, “KKK,” the n-word, and other racist writing are etched onto walls of restrooms, restroom stalls, lunch tables, and even factory machinery. They have complained that Black and/or African American workers are assigned to more physically demanding posts and the lowest-level contract roles, paid less, and more often terminated from employment than other workers.
“They have also complained that Black and/or African American workers are often denied advancement opportunities, and more often and more severely disciplined than non-Black workers. More significantly, these numerous complaints by Black and/or African American workers about racial harassment, racial discrimination, and retaliation lodged over a span of almost a decade have been futile. For example, Defendants turned, and continue to turn, a blind eye to years of complaints from Black workers who protest the commonplace use of racial slurs on the assembly line. Tesla was, and continues to be, slow to clean up racist graffiti with swastikas and other hate symbols scrawled in common areas.”
Details of the allegations against Tesla were quite shocking, as they include instances that, for all intents and purposes, should have resulted in a quick termination against the perpetrators. This is something that Tesla has reportedly done in the past, as outlined by the company in its response to a $137 million jury verdict, which came as a result of a lawsuit filed by ex-employee Owen Diaz, who accused the company of racial abuse during his tenure around 2015 through 2016. According to Tesla, two contractors behind Diaz’s racial abuse were promptly terminated, while another was suspended following an internal investigation.
Following are some of the detailed allegations outlined by the DFEH against Tesla.
“Throughout the day, every day, Black and/or African American workers heard Defendants’ workers, leads, supervisors, and managers make racial slurs and comments about Black workers.27 Examples of the racist language include the n-word, “porch monkey,” “monkey toes,” “boy,” “hood rats,” and “horse hair.” Defendants’ workers, including production leads and supervisors, made references to Black and/or African Americans in racist comments and racist jokes such as “N[ ] word out of the hood,” “from the ghetto,” “Tesla [was] hiring lazy coons,” and “go back to Africa.”
“Because the factory was racially segregated, Defendants’ workers referred to the areas where many Black and/or African Americans worked as the ‘porch monkey station.’ Defendants’ workers with tattoos of the Confederate flag made their racially incendiary tattoos visible to intimidate Black and/or African American workers. Racial slurs were also dispensed in Spanish and included ‘mayate’ and ‘negrita.’ Additionally, Defendants’ workers referred to the Tesla factory as the ‘slaveship’ or ‘the plantation,’ where Defendants’ production leads ‘crack[ed] the whip.’ Many Black and/or African American workers understood these terms to be references to how Defendants treated its Black and/or African American workers. One Black worker heard these racial slurs as often as 50-100 times a day.
“These Black and/or African American workers also had racial slurs directed at them. These workers were subjected to Defendants’ production associates, leads, and supervisors directly calling them the n-word throughout the day. One worker heard Defendants’ production associates and leads tell her to ‘Shut the fuck up, N[ ],’ and ‘All blacks look alike.’ Another Black worker reported that at least twice Defendants’ workers mocked him for eating watermelon during lunch. They accused him of being lazy, saying, ‘You’re eating watermelon, that’s why you’re lazy.’ These co-workers also speculated about his genitals and referred to him as ‘Mandingo’ or ‘big black guy.’ Another worker heard Defendants’ production lead and production associate crack racist jokes loud enough for others to hear. When he raised the jokes with them, the production associate slapped his shoulder and said it was just a joke. When another Black worker protested to being called a racial slur and asked Defendants’ production associates, leads, and supervisor to refer to him by his name, they retorted, ‘This N[ ] is crazy’ or ‘This N[ ] is tripping.’ They called him a snitch for complaining.
“Notably, Defendants’ leads, supervisors, and managers were active participants and/or witnesses to these racist comments. Black and/or African American workers reported that Defendants’ leads and supervisors on the production line often said, ‘That stupid N[ ] over there’ or ‘That fucking N[ ], I can’t stand them.’ Regarding a group of Black production associates, Defendants’ supervisor said that “there [was] too many of them in there. They are not Tesla material.” Defendants’ supervisors complained about where Black and/or African American workers were assigned, saying, ‘Monkeys work outside,’ and ‘Monkeys need a coat in cold weather.’ A supervisor pointedly asked one African American worker, ‘Do most Africans have bones through their noses?’ Another African American worker reported that a group of Defendants’ production leads often laughed at her whenever she walked by them. These leads muttered’ N[ ]’ or ‘Shut up, N[ ]’ to her at first. When she started getting awards for her work performance, these leads openly called her these racial slurs.
“On a daily basis, Black and/or African American workers were confronted with racist writing while working at Tesla. They saw racist graffiti – including’ N[ ],’ ‘KKK,’ swastikas, the Confederate flag, a white supremist skull, ‘go back to Africa,’ and ‘mayate’ – written on the restroom walls, restroom stalls, lockers, workplace benches, workstations, lunch tables, and the break room. These slurs were even etched onto Defendants’ machinery. 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’ and ‘fuck N[ ]’ on the breakroom walls. These racial slurs and racial comments, apparent to all who walked by, were left up for months, without Defendants bothering to remove them.”
As noted by Tesla in its recent blog post, it would be asking the court to pause the DFEH’s case to ensure that facts and evidence will be heard. The EV maker also noted that despite repeated requests, the DFEH has declined to provide Tesla with specific allegations or the factual basis for its lawsuit. Tesla did note, however, that over the past five years, the DFEH has been asked on almost 50 occasions by individuals who believed that they were discriminated against or harassed to investigate the company. But on every single occasion, the DFEH did not find any misconduct against Tesla.
Teslarati has sent an inquiry to the California DFEH about its case against Tesla, and why it waited years to file a case against the EV maker considering the gravity of the suit’s accusations. The DFEH’s response would likely be covered in a separate article that would be written in the near future.
The DFEH’s lawsuit against Tesla can be viewed below.
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