California’s civil rights agency is alleging that Black workers at Tesla’s California plant were subject to N-word and other racial slurs by fellow employees as well as managers and supervisors.
According to the lawsuit, Elon Musk’s tech company segregated Black workers into areas that other employees referred to as “porch monkey stations,” “the dark side,” “the slave ship,” and “the plantation.”
The lawsuit also describes a multitude of instances in which racist language and graffiti were directed towards Black employees and drawn on restroom walls, lunch tables, and workplace benches. The graffiti included phrases such as “KKK,” “Go back to Africa,” as well as drawings of a noose, the Confederate flag, and “F—[N-word].”
Tesla repeatedly penalized Black employees more harshly and more often than white employees, and continually suppressed them through the denial of career advancement opportunities and a disparity in pay as compared to other employees, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit also states that Black workers were assigned to do more physically demanding work than other employees, such as cleaning the floor of the factory on their hands and knees.
“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,” the lawsuit says. “Tesla has continued to deflect and evade responsibility. While it claims to not tolerate racial harassment or discrimination at its factories, Tesla’s investigations of complaints are not compliant with law.”
Tesla allegedly “turned, and continue to turn, a blind eye” to complaints from Black employees at the plant that span years. The company delays cleaning up racist graffiti—such as swastikas, KK, the N-word, and an array of hate symbols, the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit says that forms of discrimination against Black employees were constant, taking place since Tesla began production at the plant in 2012. One worker said they heard racial slurs as frequently as 50-100 times a day, the lawsuit said.
Tesla responded to the lawsuit, filed by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, through a blog post that said the agency found no misconduct when investigating roughly 50 complaints of discrimination. The agency has since denied the claims.
“Tesla has always disciplined and terminated employees who engage in misconduct, including those who use racial slurs or harass others in different ways,” The blog post said. “Above all, Tesla continues to seek to provide a workplace that is safe, respectful, fair, and inclusive—all of which are vital to achieving our mission.”
The post added that “A narrative spun by the DFEH and a handful of plaintiff firms to generate publicity is not factual proof.”
Tesla has not yet responded to Los Angeles magazine’s request for comment.
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