FREMONT (KPIX) — A lawsuit filed this week by the state of California has alleged years of “rampant, unchecked racism” at the Tesla factory in Fremont.
The 39-page lawsuit was filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing after a three-year investigation and “hundreds of complaints.”
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“The DFEH found evidence that the Tesla Fremont factory is a racially segregated workplace where black workers are subjected to racial slurs and discriminated against in work assignments, discipline, compensation and promotion, creating a hostile work environment. The facts of this case speak for themselves. DFEH will continue to take action to ensure workplaces are free from harassment and racism,” said agency director Kevin Kish.
According to the complaint, black employees were racially harassed “all day, every day,” as often as “50 to 100 times a day,” and heard comments such as: N-word; boy; lazy; hood rats; monkey toes; horse mane; N-word off the hood; from the ghetto; You’re here [was] hire lazy coons; return to Africa.
According to the lawsuit, the plant was racially segregated and employees were seen openly sporting Confederate flag tattoos. The area with black employees was called “the slavery” or the “plantation”. Black employees were told that “monkeys work outside,” according to the lawsuit.
Court documents stated that “swastikas, ‘KKK’ the n-word and other racist writing are etched into the walls of restrooms, restroom stalls, lunch tables and even factory machinery” and are there. stayed for long periods.
“For many black and/or African American workers, the stress caused by severe and pervasive racial harassment, the risk of physical altercation and escalation with harassers, blatant discrimination, disproportionately harsh discipline and unhelpful to complain, made working conditions so intolerable that they quit,” the DFEH said in a statement.
Tesla broke the news Wednesday morning, hours before the lawsuit was filed, in a company blog post titled “The DFEH’s Misguided Lawsuit.”
The company pointed to a 2020 Diversity Equity and Inclusion Impact Report, which stated, “We continue to build a culture that is safe, respectful, fair and inclusive for all of our employees. Roll out our unconscious bias trainings across the hiring organization and to all people managers. »
According to the company, blacks and African Americans make up 10% of its US workforce and 4% of management, an increase of 60%.
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However, the blog post also touted Tesla’s economic footprint in the state: “Tesla is also the last remaining automaker in California. The Fremont plant has a majority minority workforce and provides the highest paying jobs in the automotive industry to more than 30,000 Californians. No company has done more for sustainability or clean energy job creation than Tesla. Yet, at a time when manufacturing jobs are leaving California, the DFEH has decided to sue Tesla instead of working constructively with us. It’s both unfair and counterproductive, especially because the allegations focus on events from years ago… Attacking a company like Tesla that has done California so good shouldn’t be the primary purpose of a state agency with prosecutorial power. Workers’ interests and fundamental fairness must come first.
Dr. Shaun Fletcher, a San Jose State professor and diversity expert, disputed Tesla’s response.
“It screamed hypocritically. He shouted straight. He shouted that they weren’t willing to take responsibility for anything that was proven,” Fletcher said. “The tone that comes out of that statement is ‘You don’t know who we are. We are Tesla. We’re someone who shouldn’t be dragged through the mud like this. How dare you do this after all we’ve done for the economy? »
Longtime tech entrepreneur and academic Vivek Wadhwa was an early supporter of Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
“So I was a huge fan of Elon. I considered him a friend for a long time and noticed that over the last few years he’s become completely disconnected. I mean, the things he says, what he’s doing, I can’t believe it’s the same person I knew when he was a young entrepreneur,” Wadhwa said. “Elon really seems to have gone over to the dark side. He is disconnected from what is really going on.
The state lawsuit is the latest in a series of lawsuits alleging racism and sexual harassment.
In October, a jury awarded nearly $137 million to a Tesla contractor who endured “daily racist epithets.” In November, a production assistant at the Fremont plant filed a daily sexual harassment complaint.
Last week, a former brake inspector accused the company of “festering” and “uncontrolled” racism at its Lathrop plant. The state’s lawsuit did not specify a monetary amount, but seeks compensatory, punitive, and economic damages “including, but not limited to, reinstatement, back wages, lost wages, and advantages”.
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“Elon, my friend, go back to your roots. I mean, you are a wonderful human being. You were a wonderful human being. Let’s fix these problems and make the world a better place,” Wadhwa said.