Posted on February 14, 2022

California Sues Tesla Over Alleged Rampant Discrimination Against Black Employees

Deepa Shivaram, NPR, February 11, 2022

California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing is suing Elon Musk’s company Tesla over racism and harassment toward Black employees at Tesla’s plant in Fremont, Calif., according to a lawsuit filed by the state this week. The company has called the lawsuit “unfair.”

The lawsuit follows three years of investigation into Tesla and alleges that Black and African American employees at the company’s Fremont plant are “segregated to the lowest levels.”

The lawsuit describes multiple instances of racist language and drawings toward Black employees, penalizing Black employees more harshly than white employees and denying Black employees career advancement opportunities and equal pay for work similar to that of other employees.


The lawsuit says Tesla “turned, and continue to turn, a blind eye” to the years of complaints from Black employees at the factory. For example, Tesla allegedly is slow to clean up racist graffiti, including ones with swastikas, KKK, the N-word and other hate symbols that were drawn in common areas and on the factory machines.


Discrimination against Black employees was constant, the lawsuit says, and has been going on as early as 2012, the year after Tesla started production there. Black workers at Tesla complained that managers and supervisors “constantly” used the N-word and other racial slurs toward them and other Black workers.

Some workers at Tesla with tattoos of the Confederate flag would make their tattoos visible to intimidate Black workers, according to the lawsuit. Workers at Tesla also allegedly referred to the factory as the “slaveship” or “the plantation,” in addition to other slurs. {snip}


California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) said it attempted to resolve the dispute without litigation at first, which would involve an internal dispute resolution provided by the department, free of charge. When offered in January, Tesla refused to attend. {snip}