[Warning: Potentially Triggering Content]
Controversial billionaire Elon Musk is in the hot seat once again.
The tech CEO’s business pursuits are frequently the subject of criticism (just days ago, his company Neuralink went viral for killing more than a dozen chimps in pursuit of his “brain chip” project). In this case, the criticism is accompanied by serious legal trouble for Tesla, Elon’s popular electric car company: California’s civil rights agency has filed a lawsuit on behalf of thousands of Black workers, alleging frequent use of racial slurs and discriminatory practices at their Fremont, CA plant.
The suit brought forward by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing came after “a decade of complaints and a 32-month investigation,” according to the Los Angeles Times. The legal documents allege that employees, managers, and supervisors alike frequently hurled racial slurs at Black employees. The company allegedly segregated Black workers into separate areas of the factory, sections the lawsuit claimed were referred to as “porch monkey stations,” “the dark side,” “the slave ship” and “the plantation.” The Times reported:
“Graffiti — including ‘KKK,’ ‘Go back to Africa,’ the hangman’s noose, the Confederate Flag and ‘F– [N-word]’ — were carved into restroom walls, workplace benches and lunch tables and were slow to be erased, the lawsuit says.”
The lawsuit asserted that Black employees were not only subjected to “willful, malicious” harassment, but were treated differently than their co-workers: they were given the “most difficult physical jobs” and were the only group made to “scrub floors on their hands and knees,” per the Times. They were also “disciplined for infractions for which other workers were not penalized,” as well as “denied promotions and paid less than other workers for the same jobs.” (The filing pointed out that while Black workers make up “20% of Tesla’s factory assemblers… there are no Black executives and just 3% of professionals at the Fremont plant are Black.”)
Tesla responded to the filing in a blog post entitled “The DFEH’s Misguided Lawsuit,” in which they stated that the suit is “unfair and counterproductive, especially because the allegations focus on events from years ago.” They claimed there is no “factual proof” of “systematic racial discrimination and harassment” at the company, and said they have “always disciplined and terminated employees who engage in misconduct.”
Yet the Black employees represented in the lawsuit claimed their complaints “ignored or perfunctorily acknowledged and then dismissed” by management, and that those who complained faced “retaliatory harassment, undesirable assignments and/or termination.”
Amidst a similar lawsuit in 2017, Elon sent an email to employees citing Tesla’s “hardcore and demanding” culture, and glossed over allegations of racism. He wrote:
“Part of not being a huge jerk is considering how someone might feel who is part of [a] historically less represented group. Sometimes these things happen unintentionally, in which case you should apologize. … In fairness, if someone is a jerk to you, but sincerely apologizes, it is important to be thick-skinned and accept that apology.”
Yeah, that’s a totally inadequate response to allegations of racial discrimination. And the fact that there are THOUSANDS of similar stories within this new lawsuit is impossible to ignore. It’s hard to even wrap our head around such vile behavior, so we seriously hope this lawsuit succeeds in pursuing accountability. For the full story — and more context on Tesla’s history of racism allegations — check out the Times article HERE.
[Image via CBS/YouTube & Tesla]