The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Tesla Inc. on Sept. 28, claiming widespread racial harassment of Black employees at its manufacturing plant in Fremont, California. The alleged misconduct came from both temporary as well as directly employed workers.
The EEOC also claimed Tesla retaliated against Black employees for opposing the harassment.
In the court filing, the EEOC said harassment has taken place since at least May 2015 with racial slurs being used as well as racist epithets and race-based stereotyping permeating the factory.
“Non-Black perpetrators of the racial misconduct have worked in a variety of positions at Tesla, including as managers, supervisors, line leads, production leads, production associates and temporary workers,” the lawsuit said.
The harassment included use of the N-word. Non-Black managers, employees and temporary workers alike addressed Black employees as such.
“Throughout the relevant period, Black employees also encountered displays of racist graffiti, including swastikas, threats and nooses,” the lawsuit said. “They found such graffiti on a variety of surfaces, including on desks, in elevators and on equipment, including vehicles rolling off the production lines.”
Black employees have described the prevalence of racist imagery as “frequent” and a “regular thing.”
The lawsuit also says Tesla has fired Black employees within weeks of them reporting or opposing racial harassment.
SIA has reached out to Tesla for comment.
Earlier this year, a former contingent worker at Tesla was awarded more than $3 million in a racial discrimination lawsuit against Tesla. The plaintiff previously had been awarded $136.9 million; that award was rejected by a judge as being excessive.
Separately, the EEOC reported it filed 50% more employment discrimination lawsuits in the federal fiscal year ended Sept. 30 than in the previous year, with a total of 143 new employment discrimination lawsuits filed in fiscal 2023.
“The EEOC’s litigation program is an important tool to ensure compliance with the nation’s anti-discrimination laws and promote equal employment opportunity when the commission is unable to obtain voluntary compliance,” EEOC Chair Charlotte Burrows said in a press release.