US agency sues Tesla as Black workers report 'swastikas, threats, and nooses'

'I saw KKK epithets, a swastika, and the N-word," Black worker says.

Tesla factory, Fremont, California. 10 February 2022.

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against Tesla yesterday. It alleged that Tesla violated the Civil Rights Act of 1965 by subjecting Black workers at its Fremont, California manufacturing facilities to "severe or pervasive racial harassing and creating and maintaining a hostile workplace because of their race."

The US agency also claimed that Tesla "unlawfully punished Black employees who opposed what they perceived as unlawful employment discrimination." The complaint was filed at the US District Court for Northern District of California, and alleged that the discrimination had been ongoing since May 2015

The lawsuit stated that "Throughout the Relevant Period racial epithets, including [different variations on the N-word], as well as race-based stereotypes permeated Tesla Fremont Factory, subjecting Black workers to racial hostility, offenses, and hostility," The lawsuit stated that "Non Black perpetrators have held a wide range of positions within Tesla including managers, supervisors and line leaders, production leads, associates in production, temporary workers, and production associates."

The agency claimed that since 2015 "Black employees have also been confronted with displays of racist graffiti including swastikas and threats. The graffiti was found on many surfaces including desks, elevators and equipment including vehicles that were rolling off production lines. Black employees described the presence of racist images as "frequent, constant, a regular thing" and "too many to count."

We contacted Tesla this morning and will update the article if we receive a reply.

I saw KKK epithets and a swastika. Also, the N-word.

The factory was allegedly filled with racist remarks and references to KKK "all around the walls." In the lawsuit, one Black worker is quoted as saying:

I saw KKK epithets and swastikas all over the restroom. It was so offensive and racist that I didn't even want to talk about it. It would say things like 'kill blacks', 'kill N words', 'hang blacks', 'hang N words'.

The US agency claimed that Tesla fired Black employees weeks after they reported or opposed racial abuse. Tesla fired a Black employee for opposing harassment, after telling her that Tesla does not retaliate.

The US agency reported that after Black employees complained of racism, "Tesla’s supervisors and Human Resources officials retaliated by changing their schedules, assigning them less desirable tasks, reassigning them, writing unjustified reports, and terminating them," it said.

The agency wants to recover back pay, interest and reinstatement of harmed employees as well as punitive damage for these employees. The agency is also requesting a permanent injunction prohibiting the alleged practices of discrimination and an order "to carry out policies, programs, and practices to ensure equal employment for Black employees."

According to the lawsuit, in June 2022 the EEOC sent Tesla a letter of determination stating it had "reasonable grounds to believe" Tesla violated the Civil Rights Act by subjecting Black employees working at its Fremont facilities, California to a hostile workplace and by retaliating Black employees engaged in protected activities.

The EEOC stated that it invited Tesla to "participate in informal methods of conciliation" to "seek to eliminate unlawful employment practices and to provide appropriate relief," as well as "provide the company with an opportunity to remedy discriminatory practices." The EEOC stated that Tesla refused to agree to a "conciliation agreement acceptable to Commission."

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Black workers hear slurs "almost every day"

According to the EEOC suit, Black Tesla employees reported hearing other Tesla workers use racial slurs almost every day.

One Black worker noted that "people used the N-word constantly, especially White men and men in general." The lawsuit stated that another worker reported her non-Black co-worker saying the N word repeatedly, "a lot." The lawsuit stated that non-Black managers, as well as non-managerial employees "directly addressed Black employees both individually and collectively using the N-word."

The lawsuit stated that "one worker described the N word as his White coworkers' preferred pronouns on the production line," according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit also claimed that non-Black employees used the word in "otherwise innocent" interactions with Black employees, as if the slur was "casual and natural".

"Black employees also faced other racial slurs, insults and abuse. Other slurs have been used by non-Black workers to refer to Black employees, including 'Black bitch', 'Black assbitch', 'boy', and'monkey'. Non-Black workers also made monkey noises to mock Black employees," according to the US agency.

Other racist stereotypes allegedly included the labeling of Black workers as "lazy" or "smelly". The lawsuit stated that "a worker described her White coworker's claim that '[N words] always arrive late' when a Black coworker arrived 5 minutes late."

Tesla Management refused to intervene

The lawsuit claims that Tesla's management did not stop the racist behavior. The US agency claims that supervisors and managers saw racially offensive behavior but did not intervene or refused to do so. Black employees reported insults, graffiti, and other misconduct to Tesla's employee relations, human resources, and management personnel. Tesla refused to act despite having knowledge or actual knowledge of racial misconduct and harassment. Tesla failed to investigate allegations of racial misbehavior."

In the lawsuit, Black employees describe retaliation they faced when they complained about racist harassment.

One Black employee said, "After I expressed my dissatisfaction [about the harassment], every little thing I did that was previously acceptable like listening to music at work started being written up." After reporting her Lead who told Black employees to not stand together, and said that "[N words] are lazy", another Black worker remembered that her supervisor moved her from a less demanding part of the assembly line to one that was more demanding.

Over alleged racial bias. Stonewalling is the act of obstructing an investigation into allegations of discrimination and harassment.

Tesla's claim it is not liable for the "disturbing racism" suffered by an former factory worker. Owen Diaz was awarded $137 million by a jury. The judge reduced damages to $15million. He was awarded $3.2 million.

In the Fremont factory