Tesla is facing a new racial discrimination lawsuit filed by 15 factory employees who allege that Tesla’s “standard operating procedures include blatant, open, and unmitigated race discrimination.” Racial harassment and discrimination is “rampant” at Tesla and the company has “done little to nothing to reasonably prevent or stop this toxic behavior and work environment,” the lawsuit says.
The plaintiffs include nine men and six women who work or worked at Tesla factories in California. About half of the plaintiffs were either fired or quit, while the rest still work at Tesla.
“Plaintiffs, who [are] African-American employees, have been subjected to offensive racist comments and offensive racist behavior and discipline by colleagues, leads, supervisors, managers, and/or Human Resources personnel on a daily basis,” the complaint says. The complaint alleges that an April 2021 incident at Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s home led to one of the plaintiffs being fired on the same day.
The complaint seeks financial damages and was filed Thursday in Alameda County Superior Court. “Throughout their employment with Tesla, plaintiffs were targeted for harassment on the basis of their race. The harassment included being called [variations of the n-word], ‘Boy’ and other racially derogatory terms on a regular basis as well as observing other employees enduring the same treatment,” the complaint says. One plaintiff who worked at Tesla’s Fremont factory for one month in 2022 alleged that the “harassment included the use of the terms ‘Blackies’ or ‘Darkies’ to address African-American workers.”
There was also “racist graffiti, including but not limited to [variations of the n-word], ‘KKK,’ and swastikas written on Tesla restroom walls, restroom stalls, lockers, benches, workstations, breakrooms, and tables,” the lawsuit said. The alleged “racial slurs were apparent to all who walked by, were left up for months at a time, without Tesla bothering to remove them or address the issue.”
Tesla accused of breaking labor and civil rights laws
The lawsuit said Black workers were repeatedly denied promotions while other, less qualified employees rose through the ranks. Minorities were also “assigned to the most physically demanding posts in Tesla as compared to non-minority workers who were given more technical, less physical tasks,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit accuses Tesla of racial discrimination; racial harassment; retaliation; failure to prevent discrimination and harassment; negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress; negligent hiring, retention, and supervision; wrongful termination; and constructive termination in cases where employees had “no choice but to quit.” Tesla’s actions violated California labor law and the Unruh Civil Rights Act, the complaint said.
In addition to Tesla, the lawsuit includes dozens of defendants who worked for the company as managers, as leads or supervisors, or in human resources. Most of the defendants are referred to by “Doe” or “Roe” placeholder names. We contacted Tesla about the lawsuit today and will update this article if we get a response.
Alleged incident at Musk’s home
Plaintiff Nathaniel Aziel Gonsalves worked at Tesla’s Foster City factory from February 2013 until his termination in April 2021. Gonsalves “was forced to keep his head down and endure the racially discriminatory comments made to him by supervisors and managers at Tesla,” the lawsuit said. His supervisor, identified as defendant Clinton Doe, “repeatedly made racially discriminatory comments to Gonsalves, stating that Gonsalves ‘wasn’t like most black people,’ that he ‘didn’t act ghetto,’ and further called him a ‘zebra’ because he was ‘neither black nor white.'”
Gonsalves complained about discriminatory conduct in September 2020 and October 2020 but “no action was taken by management authorities in response to” either complaint, the lawsuit said. He was “suddenly terminated” in April 2021 after nine years at the company.
The Gonsalves allegations contain the lawsuit’s only direct reference to Tesla CEO Elon Musk. The complaint described an incident at Musk’s home that allegedly led to Gonsalves’ firing:
On the day of Gonsalves’ termination, an employee of Tesla, “Cory,” was working on the solar panels at Tesla owner Elon Musk’s home. While Cory was at Musk’s home, Cory accused Gonsalves of protecting and/or favoring minorities and was prejudice [sic] against other races. Despite the severity of these accusations, Tesla refused to conduct any investigations or interviews; rather, Tesla terminated Gonsalves within two hours after Cory spoke with Musk.
When Gonsalves asked for an explanation of his firing, a human resources representative and his regional manager “casually stated that the decision to terminate Gonsalves ‘came from higher up’ and that there was nothing they can do,” the complaint said.