Tesla Inc. has been sued by a California state agency due to allegations from some Black workers about the company tolerating racial discrimination at an assembly plant. This adds to the claims that have been made in a number of other lawsuits filed against the electric car manufacturer. Late on Wednesday, the latest lawsuit was filed in state court by the Department Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). It stated that Tesla’s factory, which is based in Fremont, California, is segregated racially and Black workers have claimed that they are subjected to racist drawings and slurs. They have also said that they are assigned the jobs that are most physically demanding.
Tesla has not yet responded to the lawsuit. On Wednesday, the company said in a blog post that it had been expecting the lawsuit and considers it misguided. According to the DFEH, the working conditions at the plant are so intolerable that they have driven a number of Black workers to quit. The factory is often referred to as the ‘slaveship’ by workers, or the ‘plantation’. The Texas-based firm stated in a blog post that the DFEH has concluded in the last five years that almost 50 individual complaints of discrimination against it lacked merit.
This is a direct contradiction of the claims of the agency about widespread discrimination. The company also asserted that it has no tolerance for harassment and has fired and disciplined workers who were engaged in misconduct. The company said that narrative of the DFEH and a couple of plaintiff firms for generating publicity cannot be considered proof. Since Tesla has grown to become the most valuable automaker in the world, the company has dealt with increasing claims that involve pervasive sexual and racial harassment at its flagship plant in Fremont, as well as other facilities.
In October, a federal jury had awarded a former employee working at the flagship plant named Owen Diaz $137 million. The employee said that managers had ignored his complaints about continued racial harassment, including swastikas and slurs scrawled on the bathroom walls. In this particular case, a judge is considering Tesla’s bid for lowering the award or for a new trial. This is the largest award to be given to a single worker in a discrimination lawsuit. The company is also facing similar claims against a proposed class-action lawsuit in California state court, filed on behalf of factory workers.
Last year, a judge had rejected Tesla’s bid for dismissing the claims. In those cases, the company has denied any wrongdoing and has added that it has implemented several policies in recent years for preventing racist conduct and for giving punishments when it does happen. While the DFEH lawsuit has similar allegations as in the pending cases, it is going to cover a lot more workers because the agency does not have to stick to agreements that most employees at Tesla have signed for bringing legal claims in arbitration, as opposed to the court. This is a great day for those employees because they will also get their day in court.