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Here’s the DFEH lawsuit against Tesla, and it’s way more serious than the company made it sound

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) has now officially filed the lawsuit that Tesla warned about in a blog post earlier this week, and it’s a lot more serious than the automaker made it sound.

Earlier this week, Tesla released a blog post titled “The DFEH’s Misguided Lawsuit”  in which it warned that the state agency was going to file a lawsuit alleging “systematic racial discrimination and harassment”.

In the post, Tesla argued that the lawsuit was based on “alleged misconduct by production associates at the Fremont factory that took place between 2015 and 2019“. The company also argued that NFEH didn’t try to solve the issue without a lawsuit, and that in each of the individual cases, they didn’t find Tesla at fault.

However, now that we have access to the full lawsuit, we can see the allegations are much more serious.

DFEH has 50 former Tesla employees complainants who claim they were subject to racist comments from not only colleagues, but also supervisors and managers. They also alleged that black employees were less likely to be promoted and are not represented well represented in managerial roles.

Here’s one example of the claims in the lawsuit:

Throughout the day, every day, Black and/or African American workers heard Defendants’ workers, leads, supervisors, and managers make racial slurs and comments about Black workers. Examples of the racist language include the n-word, “porch monkey,” “monkey toes,” “boy,” “hood rats,” and “horse hair.” Defendants’ workers, including production leads and supervisors, made references to Black and/or African Americans in racist comments and racist jokes such as “N[ ] word out of the hood,” “from the ghetto,” “Tesla [was] hiring lazy coons,” and “go back to Africa.”

Another example:

Because the factory was racially segregated, Defendants’ workers referred to the areas where many Black and/or African Americans worked as the “porch monkey station.” Defendants’ workers with tattoos of the Confederate flag made their racially incendiary tattoos visible to intimidate Black and/or African American workers. Racial slurs were also dispensed in Spanish and included “mayate” and “negrita.” Additionally, Defendants’ workers referred to the Tesla factory as the “slaveship” or “the plantation,” where Defendants’ production leads “crack[ed] the whip.” Many Black and/or African American workers understood these terms to be references to how Defendants treated its Black and/or African American workers. One Black worker heard these racial slurs as often as 50-100 times a day.

As for Tesla’s claim that the DFEH went straight to a lawsuit, the agency denies it and said that it brought the complainants and the company to mediation.

It also claims to have tried to address the claims of systematic harassment dnd discrimination with Tesla, but it apparently didn’t go well:

After approximately three years of investigation, receiving hundreds of complaints from workers and serving many to Tesla, DFEH issued a cause finding on January 3, 2022. In the course of DFEH’s investigation, DFEH found evidence that Defendants subjected its Black and/or African American workers to racial harassment and discriminated against them in the terms and conditions of employment, including assignment, discipline, promotion, termination, and constructive discharge. DFEH’s investigation also found that Defendants retaliated against its Black and/or African American workers when they complained or reported the harassment or discrimination. Further, DFEH’s investigation found that Defendants failed to take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent unlawful discrimination, harassment, or retaliation. DFEH’s investigation also found that Defendants paid Black and/or African American workers less than workers of another race or ethnicity for substantially similar work. DFEH’s investigation also found that Defendants required Black and/or African American workers to waive rights, forums, and/or procedures as a condition of employment, continued employment, or the receipt of any employment related benefit. Lastly, DFEH’s investigation uncovered record-keeping violations. These claims are alleged and/or reasonably related to and like the claims originally alleged in the Director’s Complaint.

Here’s the lawsuit in full:

[scribd id=558274224 key=key-atR7YtlhtKmlhzxTOmEJ mode=scroll]

Electrek’s Take

Regardless of how true the claims in the lawsuit are, the blog post from Tesla completely misrepresented the nature of it.

These are extremely serious allegations, and if even only half of the claims are true, it looks like Tesla has a real problem at Fremont factory that needs to be addressed more forcefully than the company claims to have done in the past.

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