Horrific Allegations Of Racism Prompt California Lawsuit Against Elon Musk’s Tesla

Posted February 12, 2022 by with 3 comments

This is insane, but with a creepy scumbag like Elon Musk—who grew up in South Africa during apartheid, and whose father owned part of an emerald mine in Zambia—in charge of the tax-dodging company, it’s not surprising. Via LA Times (warning—the article quotes multiple racial slurs used in the lawsuit):

The N-word and other racist slurs were hurled daily at Black workers at Tesla’s California plant, delivered not just by fellow employees but also by managers and supervisors. So says California’s civil rights agency in a lawsuit filed against the electric-vehicle maker in Alameda County Superior Court on Thursday on behalf of thousands of Black workers after a decade of complaints and a 32-month investigation.

Tesla segregated Black workers into separate areas that its employees referred to as “porch monkey stations,” “the dark side,” “the slave ship” and “the plantation,” the lawsuit alleges.

Only Black workers had to scrub floors on their hands and knees, and they were relegated to the Fremont, Calif., factory’s most difficult physical jobs, the suit states.

Graffiti — including “KKK,” “Go back to Africa,” the hangman’s noose, the Confederate Flag and “F– [N-word]” — were carved into restroom walls, workplace benches and lunch tables and were slow to be erased, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit comes in the wake of Tesla’s billionaire chief executive, Elon Musk, moving the company’s headquarters from Palo Alto to Austin, Texas, where he is building a major new assembly plant.

The state’s lawsuit suggests the relocation to a state known for looser enforcement is no coincidence, declaring it to be “another move to avoid accountability.”

Not only were Tesla’s Black workers subjected to “willful, malicious” harassment, but they were also denied promotions and paid less than other workers for the same jobs, the suit asserted. They were disciplined for infractions for which other workers were not penalized.

Black workers make up 20% of Tesla’s factory assemblers, but there are no Black executives and just 3% of professionals at the Fremont plant are Black, the lawsuit said.

In 2017, the California Civil Rights Law Group, a Bay Area firm, filed a class-action lawsuit against Tesla on behalf of 1,000 Black workers. It has interviewed more than 100 who make claims similar to those in this week’s DFEH lawsuit. But that private lawsuit, still in court, covered only workers employed by staffing agencies that did not make them sign arbitration agreements.

Lawrence Organ, the lead attorney in the 2017 suit, said his firm of six lawyers, which specializes in harassment cases, has seen a marked rise in race-related complaints in the last five years. Before that, his firm had handled just two or three such cases in a decade. Today, it has 30 pending cases involving the N-word.

“Ever since Trump started running for president in 2015, there has been this change in attitude by people who harbor racist thoughts and racist beliefs,” he said. “They think that they can speak out and say whatever they want to say.”

Besides the N-word, harassment at Tesla, according to the DFEH lawsuit, included slurs such as “Monkey toes,” “banana boy,” “hood rats” and “mayate,” a Spanish word for dung beetle.

At Tesla’s Fremont factory, Black workers’ complaints were “ignored or perfunctorily acknowledged and then dismissed” by management, the lawsuit alleges. Those who complained were subject to “retaliatory harassment, undesirable assignments and/or termination.”

The last two years — a period during which Tesla’s stock price has soared — have seen a major uptake in racial and sexual harassment suits against the company. At least 167 have been filed since 2006, according to Plainsite, a court document transparency organization. At least five have been filed in the last six weeks.

One was lodged by a female Black employee who said her female white boss struck her with a hot grinding tool and called her “stupid” and the N-word and insulted her intelligence. The suit says the supervisor was fired but later rehired.

Another was filed by a man who said he wrote directly to Musk to complain about racial harassment and was then told to report to human resources, where he was fired.

Full LA Times article with more details here.