Former Tesla Employees Allege Factory Is a Hostile Work Environment for African Americans

Tesla denies knowledge of these incidents, saying that complaints were never filed while the plaintiffs worked there.

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Former Tesla Employees Allege Factory Is a Hostile Work Environment for African Americans © Former Tesla Employees Allege Factory Is a Hostile Work Environment for African Americans

Three former workers at a Tesla factory have filed a lawsuit against the company alleging that the environment is hostile to African-American workers, The Mercury News reports. All three employees say they were harassed with racial slurs during their time at the company's the Fremont, California factory. One even claims that a supervisor drew a racist cartoon about him on a piece of cardboard.

"No employee should ever feel harassed or mistreated based on their race, gender, beliefs or anything else," a Tesla spokesperson told The Drive in an emailed statement. "There are over 33,000 people working at Tesla, and given our size, we recognize that unfortunately at times there will be cases of harassment or discrimination in corners of the company. For there to be zero cases in a global workforce of 33,000 would be impossible for any company, no matter how much we care. [...] In situations where Tesla is at fault, we will never seek to avoid responsibility. But in this instance, from what we know so far, this does not seem to be such a case."

Owen Diaz, his son Demetric Diaz, and Lamar Patterson are the former employees who have filed this lawsuit, according to The Mercury News. The younger Diaz alleges that his supervisor cursed and directed racial slurs toward him and his father during a dispute. 

Demetric Diaz, a temporary worker, complained to his staffing agency and another Tesla supervisor. Demetric Diaz complained about the regular use of epithets to the staffing agency and another supervisor, the suit claims. The supervisor reportedly told him he was just a replaceable temporary worker, and Diaz was let go less than a week later, in October 2015.

The elder Diaz alleges that he was harassed more from that point on, bearing the brunt of more slurs and a racist cartoon drawn on a piece of cardboard by his supervisor. After complaining, Owen Diaz received poor performance reviews and left the company in May 2016. 

"Thus far," a Tesla spokesperson told The Drive, "the only somewhat relevant evidence we have found is an email from Owen Diaz to his supervisor from October 2015 in which Mr. Diaz claimed that a co-worker was yelling and making aggressive comments. That email made no mention of the use of any racist language or epithets."

Patterson claims to have suffered similar racial harassment during his time at Tesla between January and August 2016.

"None of these individuals has ever brought a claim about their time at Tesla until now, in some cases years after they were last at Tesla," a Tesla spokesperson said. "Normally, when claims like this are made, the employee first makes a complaint to a regulator such as the DFEH or EEOC. Strangely, that never happened in this case."

This is not the first incident of employee harassment reported at Tesla. According to Automotive News, Former employee DeWitt Lambert filed a similar lawsuit alleging racist remarks and threats of violence this past March. 

"A judge has made a procedural ruling against the plaintiff," a Tesla spokesperson said. "This attorney has since been shopping the suit around for a different forum to help him achieve a more favorable outcome. When the attorney filed the suit earlier this year, it was timed to coincide with a carefully planned media blitz in an attempt to create a disingenuous narrative that was at odds with the facts." This case is now scheduled to be heard in December, according to court records.

The same attorney representing Lambert is now also representing Omar and Demetric Diaz and Lamar Patterson in their lawsuit, Tesla says. Separate lawsuits alleging gender- and age- discrimination have been filed in the past as well.

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