Tesla doesn’t do enough to stamp out the rampant racial discrimination at the electric vehicle’s factories, according to a lawsuit several black employees filed Monday.
A lawsuit from former Tesla employee, Marcus Vaughn, claims more than 100 black people are seeking permission from a judge to file a class action lawsuit and are hoping to implement policies preventing discrimination at Tesla. They also claim the company’s facility in Fremont, Calif., is a “hotbed for racist behavior.”
“Although 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,” the employees said in the complaint, that was filed in a California court.
The lawsuit alleges that employees and supervisors regularly used the “N word” around Vaughn, who worked at the California facility earlier this year. His employment was later terminated for “not having a positive attitude” after he complained to human resources about the issue.
Vaughn’s lawsuit come shortly after reports showed that Tesla fired between 400 and 700 people after completing an employee evaluation review in September. Current and former employees estimated 400 to 700 people have lost their jobs – administrative workers, sales jobs, and manufacturers are among those jettisoned.
Tesla, for its part, dismissed the lawsuit and the accusation that the company’s culture stokes racial discrimination.
“Several months ago we had already investigated disappointing behavior involving a group of individuals who worked on or near Marcus Vaughn’s team,” the company noted in a blog post on its website. “At the time, our investigation identified a number of conflicting accusations and counter-accusations between several African-American and Hispanic individuals, alleging use of racial language, including the ‘n-word’ and ‘w-word,’ towards each other and a threat of violence.”
The company ultimately made the decision to terminate the employment of three of the people at the center of the fight, the post added. Tesla also argued that Vaughn was a temporary worker, not a full-time, contracted employee.
Vaughn reached out to Larry Organ, an attorney at the California Civil Rights Law Group, after the law firm sued Tesla earlier this year when other former employees complained about racial harassment this year.
CEO Elon Musk sent a staff-wide email earlier this year advising black employees not to overreact when someone treats you inappropriately in the workplace, according to the lawsuit.
“Part of not being a huge jerk is considering how someone might feel who is part of [a] historically less represented group,” Musk wrote. “Sometimes 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.”
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