New York residents who follow developments in the automotive industry will likely know that Tesla is considered to be one of the world’s leading electric vehicle manufacturers, but they may not be aware that the Texas-based company has been accused of condoning racial harassment and discrimination. On Sept. 28, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced that it was filing a lawsuit in federal court against Tesla for failing to act when Black employees were subjected to pervasive racial harassment.
The EEOC decided to sue Tesla after several Black workers at the company’s manufacturing facility in Fremont, California, reported being subjected to racial abuse on a near daily basis. Black workers claimed that managers and supervisors regularly used racial pejoratives, and they said offensive images including depictions of nooses were placed on desks and equipment throughout the factory. Black workers who complained about the abuse were allegedly reassigned, reprimanded or fired.
Former Tesla worker wins earlier lawsuit
The EEOC announced that it was taking legal action against Tesla for violating employment laws less than six months after a jury in California ordered the company to pay more than $3 million a former worker who had been subjected to racial harassment. The man was originally awarded damages totaling $137 million, but a judge determined that the award was excessive. The current EEOC lawsuit seeks backpay with interest for the workers affected.
The EEOC is tasked with enforcing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, color, sex or national origin. The government agency works with employers to eliminate workplace discrimination and harassment, and it only takes legal action when efforts to reach a conciliation agreement are unsuccessful. Tesla was given an opportunity to address the concerns of its Black workers, but its proposals were deemed unsatisfactory by the EEOC.