Tesla braces for lawsuit from California’s civil rights agency, DFEH

An aerial photo of the Tesla Fremont Factory on May 13, 2020 in Fremont, California.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

California’s Civil Rights Agency has informed Tesla that it has grounds to file a civil complaint against the automaker following an investigation into “undisclosed allegations of racial discrimination and harassment at unspecified Tesla locations” in the state.

Tesla revealed the announcement from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing in a financial application published Monday. Tesla received the announcement on January 3, it is stated in the archive.

While Tesla moved its headquarters to Austin, Texas, last year, Elon Musk’s electric car and solar cell business still operates many facilities throughout the state of California. Tesla’s activities include its first American vehicle assembly plant in Fremont, a research and development hub in Palo Alto, a design center in Hawthorne, a foundry and a factory where the company makes energy storage systems in Lathrop and other sub-assembly plants, department stores and distribution centers, including Lathrop and Martinez .

The DFEH announcement to Tesla follows a series of complaints from current and former Tesla workers in the state.

Last October, a jury in a federal court in San Francisco ruled that Tesla should pay a former worker, Owen Diaz, about $ 137 million after he faced a hostile work environment where, he told the court, colleagues used epithets. to demean him and other black workers, told him to “go back to Africa”, leaving racist graffiti on the toilets and a racist drawing in his workplace.

Tesla said in its financial filing Monday: “The company does not believe the facts and the law justify the verdict,” and said it would appeal the case if it could not otherwise get damages reduced in court.

Another former Tesla worker, Melvin Berry, was awarded $ 1 million in arbitration after complaining about similar experiences while working for Tesla from 2015 to 2016. Following the decision, he told Black Enterprise that a supervisor often used racist slander , and when Berry complained, he was forced to work longer hours with heavier equipment.

Several lawsuits have been filed alleging racial harassment and discrimination at Tesla since Berry and Diaz filed their complaints. Last week, Kaylen Barker, a former Tesla worker who is a gay black woman, said in a suit that she was assaulted and verbally abused by a colleague at a Tesla facility in Lathrop, where she was working on inspecting brake parts.

The company and DFEH did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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