The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, compensation and an order for Tesla to address racism at its California factory.
A government anti-discrimination agency in the United States has filed a lawsuit against Elon Musk’s Tesla, accusing the company of allowing “pervasive racial harassment” against black workers at its flagship auto plant of California, and for taking retaliatory measures against those who filed complaints.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency, has said black workers have routinely faced stereotyping, racial slurs and hostility since at least 2015.
The lawsuit, which follows failed mediation, adds federal charges to discrimination claims already filed by the state of California, lawsuits filed by individual Tesla employees and a class-action lawsuit involving approximately 240 workers.
The electric car maker “subjected Black employees at its Fremont, California manufacturing plants… to severe or pervasive racial harassment and created and maintained a hostile work environment because of their race,” the lawsuit says.
“The racist behavior was frequent, continuous, inappropriate, unwelcome and occurred across all teams, departments and positions,” the commission said.
The suit said the factory walls had graffiti including swastikas, nooses and threats, some of which were allegedly on vehicles coming off the production line.
The commission said black workers routinely endured racist slurs, including variations of the “N-word,” as well as “monkey” and “boy.”
“The slurs were used casually and openly in high-traffic areas and work centers,” according to the commission.
Tesla announced last year that the EEOC had formally raised concerns about the situation at the factory.
In other cases, the company said it does not tolerate discrimination and takes workers’ complaints seriously.
There was no immediate response from Tesla or Musk on the EEOC’s action.
According to legal documents, Tesla supervisors and executives witnessed racial abuse but did not intervene, and Tesla did not take steps to address the misconduct.
Black Tesla workers who complained of racist treatment found themselves assigned to undesirable tasks or shifts, unfairly drafted or even fired, according to the lawsuit.
“After expressing my dissatisfaction, I began to be criticized for things that were previously acceptable, such as listening to music while working,” a black Tesla employee was quoted as saying in court documents.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages as well as compensation for harmed Black workers and an order requiring Tesla to address racism at the factory.
California sued Tesla last year through the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which enforces the state’s civil rights laws and is similar to the EEOC, saying it received hundreds of complaints from workers .
Tesla released a statement at the time saying it opposed “all forms of discrimination and harassment” and was committed to providing “a safe, respectful, fair and inclusive workplace.”
Separately, a number of female Tesla workers filed lawsuits in 2021 alleging sexual harassment at the Fremont factory.