Tesla has been tolerating racial harassment at its factory in Fremont, California since at least 2015 until today, according to the lawsuit filed by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The automaker has violated federal law by tolerating the “widespread and ongoing racial harassment of its Black employees,” the agency said. Further, affected workers who raised concerns about the abuse they were getting were apparently subjected to various forms of retaliation: They were transferred, their duties were changed, or they were terminated.
The EEOC’s lawsuit says Black employees were regularly called variations of the N-word, “monkey,” “boy” and “black b*tch” throughout the factory, even in hubs were workers gathered. These employees also encountered drawings of racial graffiti, including swastikas and nooses, on desks, as well as on the walls of bathroom stalls and elevators throughout the factory. If these allegations sound familiar, it’s because they’re identical to the complaints filed by plaintiffs who previously sued Tesla for racial harassment.
One of those plaintiffs was Melvin Berry, who accused Tesla supervisors of using racial slurs against him. And there was Owen Diaz, who said he was subjected to racial slurs and was made to feel unsafe at work with racist graffiti on his workspace, such as drawings of Inki the Caveman. Diaz was originally granted $137 million in damages, which was one of the highest amounts awarded to an individual suing on the basis of discrimination. However, it was significantly lowered following several appeals, until it was reduced to $3.2 million earlier this year.
The EEOC filed its lawsuit after doing an investigation on the automaker and trying to reach pre-litigation settlement through conciliation. Now, it’s seeking both compensatory and punitive damages, as well as backpay for all affected workers. It’s also asking the court for an injunction “designed to reform Tesla’s employment practices to prevent such discrimination in the future.”