*More than 100 African-American employees of high-end carmaker Tesla say in a new discrimination lawsuit that its production floor is a “hotbed for racist behavior,” where black workers suffer severe and pervasive harassment.
The employees are seeking permission from a judge to sue as a group and are seeking unspecified general and punitive monetary damages as well as an order for Tesla to implement policies to prevent and correct harassment, reports Bloomberg.
“Although Tesla stands out as a groundbreaking company at the forefront of the electric car revolution, its standard operating procedure at the Tesla factory is pre-Civil Rights era race discrimination,” the employees said in the complaint, filed Monday, Nov. 13, in California’s Alameda County Superior Court.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Marcus Vaughn, who worked in the Fremont factory from April 23 to Oct. 31. Vaughn alleged that employees and supervisors regularly used the “N word” around him and other black colleagues. Vaughn said he complained in writing to human resources and Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk and was terminated in late October for “not having a positive attitude.”
Larry Organ, an attorney at the California Civil Rights Law Group, said that Vaughn reached out to him after the law firm sued Tesla on behalf of other African American employees who complained about racial harassment this year.
According to the complaint, Musk sent an email to Tesla factory employees on May 31.
“Part of not being a huge jerk is considering how someone might feel who is part of [a] historically less represented group,” Musk wrote in the email. “Sometimes these things happen unintentionally, in which case you should apologize. In fairness, if someone is a jerk to you, but sincerely apologizes, it is important to be thick-skinned and accept that apology.”
Organ told Bloomberg Monday: “The law doesn’t require you to have a thick skin. Tesla is not doing enough. It’s somewhat akin to saying ‘stop being politically correct.’ When you have a diverse workforce, you need to take steps to make sure everyone feels welcome in that workforce.”