These are facts for which Tesla will have to answer in court. The American federal agency responsible for compliance with labor law (EEOC) filed a complaint on Thursday September 28 against the electric car manufacturer, accusing it of racist harassment. This complaint comes a year and a half after California launched similar lawsuits against Elon Musk’s company.
Tesla violated “federal law by tolerating widespread and ongoing racial harassment of its Black employees and subjecting some of those workers to retaliation for opposing harassment“, the EEOC said in a press release.
According to the complaint filed in San Francisco, “since at least 2015”, black employees at Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, have regularly been victims of insults such as “monkey”, “boy” and the “N-word” (alluding to the derogatory term for black people), a term that has become socially unpronounceable by white people in the United States. “Slurs were used casually in busy areas“, details the press release.
“Black employees regularly met graffitiincluding variations of the word in +N+, swastikas, threats and nooseson desks and other equipment, in toilets, in elevators and even on new vehicles coming off the production line,” the statement continued.
The EEOC plans to force Tesla to change its practices
The EEOC specifies that it tried to reach an agreement with Tesla, in vain. The agency is now seeking damages, salary arrears for the workers concerned, as well as an injunction to force Tesla to change its practices. The manufacturer, whose headquarters has been in Texas since the end of 2021, did not immediately respond to a request from AFP.
In February 2022, California had already filed a complaint against this factory for racial discrimination. “After receiving hundreds of complaints from workers, the DFEH found evidence (…) of racial segregation,” said this California state agency responsible for investigating cases of discrimination.
“Factory employees called the areas where many African-Americans worked the ‘porch monkey station’,” literally. “the zone of monkeys who do nothing”mentioned the complaint from the State of California.
“Tesla strongly opposes all forms of discrimination and harassment and has a dedicated employee relations team to respond to and investigate all complaints,” the group assured in a press release.
In April, a jury reduced from 15 to 3.2 million dollars the damages that Tesla must pay to a former employee who was the victim of racism. Owen Diaz, a freight elevator operator, won his lawsuit against the Fremont factory in October 2021.