Sometimes the manager of Tesla’s electric car plant in Fremont would greet employees with “Welcome to the plantation,” and sometimes he would say “Welcome to the house of slaves,” according to a lawsuit filed by a black employee.
The lawsuit filed Friday by a current Tesla employee follows a series of other lawsuits against Tesla — including a civil rights suit from the state of California — alleging the company failed to properly respond to the widespread racism in its facilities.
Raina Pierce began working in production at the Fremont plant in January 2021, installing latches on car doors, according to her lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court. “Tesla’s facilities contain the n-word throughout,” with the insult often preceded by the f-word, according to the suit. Supervisors referred to Pierce using the n-word and a gender-based slur, according to the suit.
Tesla, based in Texas after moving its headquarters from Palo Alto late last year, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Its CEO, Elon Musk, is buying Twitter, the company confirmed on Monday, with Musk saying in a statement that free speech is “the foundation of a functioning democracy.”
Pierce further claimed in her lawsuit that when a facility manager noticed she had been tasked with pushing two carts too heavy for one person and informed her direct supervisors, one of them angrily claimed that she got him in trouble and then made a vulgar comment about not supporting black people.
Her supervisors routinely let non-black workers switch jobs, but denied her requests to change shifts and also disciplined her more frequently and harshly than they did non-black workers, according to the pursuit.
Pierce in May 2021 reported the alleged harassment and discrimination to Tesla’s human resources department, according to the suit. The previous month, she had started experiencing sharp pain in her left knee and lower leg, the problem being aggravated by standing for long periods of time, walking long distances or carrying heavy objects, said the suit. In September, suffering from leg pain and an infection, she called in sick and was told she was on leave.
She claimed in the lawsuit that Tesla, in addition to discriminating against her on the basis of race and gender, and failing to stop alleged harassment based on race, retaliated against her for reporting the alleged problems by making her stay on leave for more than three months. She seeks general, punitive and compensatory damages.
In February, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing – the state’s civil rights regulator – filed a lawsuit against Tesla, alleging that black workers at the company’s Fremont plant were paid less than white workers, were denied advancements and faced daily racist abuse, including a noose. in a bathroom next to a lynching reference and a racial slur. Tesla called the lawsuit, in Alameda County Superior Court, “misguided” and “unfair.” Earlier this month, in a court filing attacking the state’s investigation that led to the lawsuit as ‘bare bones’, Tesla revealed it was being investigated by the Commission. American for Equal Employment Opportunity.
Also in February, Kaylen Barker, a black worker at a Tesla parts plant in Lathrop, alleged in a lawsuit that a white co-worker called her the n-word and assaulted her. According to the lawsuit, Tesla fired her attacker but then rehired her about two weeks later.
In March, a black former Tesla quality manager claimed in a lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court that white co-workers who knew he had been traumatized by severe blast injuries he had sustained as a military contractor in Afghanistan had tormented him with ringtones. such as incoming rocket warnings, among other racially based abuses. Marcellous Cage claimed that Tesla fired him for racist reasons and because he reported potentially fatal safety violations at the factory.
Late last year, Jessica Barraza, a worker at the Fremont plant, claimed in a lawsuit that she and other workers at the facility were subjected to “a pervasive culture of sexual harassment”, which included “a daily barrage of sexist language and behavior”. with “frequent fumbling on the factory floor”.
In October, a jury in federal court in San Francisco awarded black former Tesla worker Owen Diaz nearly $137 million after he sued the company for being subjected to ‘daily racial epithets’ in a workplace. where colleagues were drawing swastikas and leaving racist graffiti and drawings around the facility. . Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge William Orrick said in a ruling that “disturbing” evidence supported the verdict against Tesla, but legal principles compelled him to lower the price to $15 million.
In May, an arbitrator ordered Tesla to pay $1 million to Melvin Berry, a black former Tesla factory worker who had been racially slurred by supervisors. Tesla is also still fighting a lawsuit filed in 2017 by former worker Marcus Vaughn, a black man who claimed the Fremont plant was a “hotbed of racist behavior.”