Two former Tesla employees are suing the electric car manufacturer and two contracting firms over an alleged pattern of racial discrimination and hostility within the companies, Bloomberg reported.
Allegations of racial and sexual discrimination have hit Tesla before; however, this may be the first time the allegations result in a trial. Most Tesla employees are required to settle disputes through binding arbitration, but Owen Diaz and his son, Demetric, were contract workers not bound by company policy, according to Bloomberg.
Coworkers were abusive toward them, telling them to “go back to Africa,” and drawing racist caricatures on cardboard signs and bathroom stalls, The Diazs claim.
Tesla and contracting firms West Valley Staffing Group and Citistaff Solutions deny the allegations. Tesla takes all claims of discrimination “extremely seriously,” the company said, according to Bloomberg.
The Diazs do not work directly for Tesla but were hired through the contracting companies, leaving their case against Tesla on uncertain legal ground.
Under former-President Barack Obama, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) strengthened the “joint-employer” argument against companies, lowering the standard of evidence needed to prove a company shares legal responsibility in the way its contract workers are treated. The NLRB under President Donald Trump has been changing back the Obama standard.
Tesla has a contentious history with the Diazs’ attorney, Larry Organ, who filed a class-action lawsuit against the company in 2017. A contingent of black workers at Tesla’s Fremont, Cali., factory sued the company for racial discrimination and abuse.
The class-action alleged a “hotbed of discrimination” at the Fremont plant. Tesla responded in a blog post, “Hotbed of Misinformation,” in which the company denied the allegations and blamed misinformation and false claims. Tesla investigated reports of discrimination and fired three employees for using racist language, the company claimed.
“Tesla is absolutely against any form of discrimination, harassment, or unfair treatment of any kind,” the post reads. “When we hear complaints, we take them very seriously, investigate thoroughly and if proven to be true, take immediate action.”