Tesla facing new racism case by civil rights agency
Tesla is once again preparing to defend itself against allegations of workplace racism.
California’s Civil Employment Rights Agency told the company “it has grounds to file a civil complaint against Tesla,” according to the electric car maker’s annual 10-K report, released Monday.
The warning follows “an investigation into undisclosed allegations of racial discrimination and harassment at unspecified Tesla locations” by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, Tesla said.
A department spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.
In October, a jury in federal court in San Francisco ordered Tesla to pay $137 million to Owen Diaz, a contract worker at the Fremont, Calif., manufacturing plant, in 2015 and 2016. Diaz said he had been repeatedly called the N-word and told to “return to Africa”. Swastikas and racial epithets were drawn in the toilets. Complaints to management were not taken seriously, the Diaz lawsuit said.
Tesla is appealing this verdict. In a blog post published the day after the verdict, Tesla said: “[W]We recognize that in 2015 and 2016 we weren’t perfect. We are still not perfect. But we have come a long way in 5 years. We continue to grow and improve how we respond to employee concerns. Sometimes we are wrong, and when that happens we should be held accountable.
In 2018, Musk addressed allegations of workplace racism in an email to employees. “Part of not being a fat jerk is considering how someone might feel that is part of [a] historically less represented group,” wrote Musk, who grew up in South Africa. “Sometimes these things happen unintentionally, in which case you should apologize. In all honesty, if someone is a jerk to you, but sincerely apologizes, it’s important to be tough and accept that apology.
Diaz was able to sue because he was a contract employee. Tesla direct hires are required to sign agreements that divert employment-related disputes from public courts to private arbitration.
In its 10-K, Tesla also reported that the United States Securities and Exchange Commission had issued a subpoena seeking information about the company’s governance processes and compliance with a settlement that Musk and Tesla had reached with the agency in 2018. Musk and Tesla had faced fraud charges. from tweets in which he falsely claimed he had made a deal to sell the company.
Tesla does not have a media relations department. Asked to comment via Twitter, Musk did not respond.
But on Monday morning, he tweeted the message, “Always look on the bright side of lifealong with musical note emojis, a reference to a song from “Monty Python’s Life of Brian.” The song plays during the crucifixion of the protagonist.