California Regulators Are Taking Tesla to Court

Agency says there was a 'hostile environment' for Black workers at main plant
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 10, 2022 4:42 PM CST
California Sues Tesla Over Alleged Racial Discrimination
Vehicles outside the Tesla plant in Fremont, Calif.   (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

Regulators in California are taking Tesla to court for allegedly operating a "racially segregated workplace." In a complaint filed in state court Wednesday, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing said there are major workplace issues at the firm's main US car plant, the Wall Street Journal reports. In a statement, DFEH director Kevin Kish said the department investigated hundreds of complaints and found evidence that Black workers at the Fremont plant "are subjected to racial slurs and discriminated against in job assignments, discipline, pay, and promotion, creating a hostile work environment."

The agency said Black workers regularly heard racial slurs from managers and supervisors, and they complained of being passed over for promotions, subjected to harsher discipline, and assigned to more physically demanding roles than workers of other races. Last year, Tesla was ordered to pay $137 million to a Black worker at the plant who said he had faced racial taunts and had seen swastikas in a bathroom. In a 2020 diversity report, Tesla said Black people made up 10% of its US workforce and 4% of employees in leadership roles, per the Journal. In a blog post Wednesday, Tesla described the lawsuit as "unfair and counterproductive," the AP reports.

The Tesla post said the allegations date from years ago and the regulators shouldn't focus on "attacking a company like Tesla that has done so much good for California." It said the DFEH had been asked nearly 50 times over the last five years to investigate allegations of discrimination at Tesla—and had closed "every single case" without finding misconduct. "It therefore strains credibility for the agency to now allege, after a three-year investigation, that systematic racial discrimination and harassment somehow existed at Tesla," the post said. (More Tesla stories.)

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