Following an article in Bloomberg about a lawsuit describing a “hotbed for racist behavior” at Tesla, the automaker issued a response breaking down point-by-point the claims made in the article.
According to the article, the employee, Marcus Vaugh, worked at Tesla’s Fremont factory for 6 months before being fired for allegedly speaking about what was described in the lawsuit as “pre-Civil Rights era race discrimination” at the automaker.
He gave examples of coworkers and supervisors using racial slurs around black employees and claimed Tesla didn’t do enough to implement policies to prevent and correct harassment.
The company responded to the claim in a blog post:
“Regarding yesterday’s lawsuit, several months ago we had already investigated disappointing behavior involving a group of individuals who worked on or near Marcus Vaughn’s team. 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. After a thorough investigation, immediate action was taken, which included terminating the employment of three of the individuals. We believe this was the fair and just response to the facts that we learned.”
Tesla then broke down claims that were made in the article:
– There is only one actual plaintiff (Marcus Vaughn), not 100. The reference to 100 is a complete fabrication with no basis in fact at all.
The original article referred to 100 employees being behind the complaints, but it was later updated to reflect the fact that Vaughn thinks 100 other employees suffered the same treatment and his lawyer sought to sue on their behalf.
– The plaintiff was employed by a temp agency, not by Tesla as claimed in the lawsuit.
Some of Tesla’s workers at the Fremont factory are employed by temporary employment agencies and not directly by Tesla.
– Marcus was not fired, he was on a six month temp contract that simply ended as contracted.
The article based on the lawsuit claimed he was fired after complaining to Elon Musk.
– His email to Elon was about his commute and Tesla’s shuttles, which was addressed as he requested. There was no mention of racial discrimination whatsoever.
The original lawsuit and Bloomberg’s article didn’t quote those emails, but another email from Musk further down.
– The trial lawyer who filed this lawsuit has a long track record of extorting money for meritless claims and using the threat of media attacks and expensive trial costs to get companies to settle. At Tesla, we would rather pay ten times the settlement demand in legal fees and fight to the ends of the Earth than give in to extortion and allow this abuse of the legal system.
Tesla was recently hit by several lawsuits and complaints about the working conditions at its Fremont factory as the United Auto Worker union is trying to enter Tesla’s workforce at the factory.
– We would also like to clear up the description of Elon’s prior email to employees. It is dedicated to ensuring that Tesla employees always try to do the right thing, that being a jerk is not allowed, that everyone should be contributing to an atmosphere where people look forward to coming to work in the morning and that no one should feel excluded, uncomfortable, or unfairly treated. As one of many points in that email, Elon also explained that if someone makes an offensive or hurtful statement on a single occasion, but subsequently offers a sincere apology, then we believe that apology should be accepted. The counterpoint would be that a single careless comment should ruin a person’s life and career, even if they truly regret their action and do their best to make amends. That would be a cold world with no forgiveness and no heart.
In the Bloomberg article based on the lawsuit, it quoted part of the email, which made it look like Musk had somewhat of an insensitive response to claims of racism within Tesla’s ranks.
They released the email in full in order to clear things up.
Elon’s full email is below: