More Tesla Employees Allege Racist Behavior in New Lawsuit

Tesla believes these claims are unfounded, a frivolous lawsuit piggybacking previous suits.

Bloomberg, via Getty Images

Last month we reported on a lawsuit filed by three Tesla factory workers who allege that their work environment was hostile to African-American workers. That case is not scheduled to be heard until December, but Bloomberg reports that another former employee has filed a similar lawsuit, and has requested permission from a judge to sue on behalf of more than 100 other workers complaining that the Tesla factory floor is a "hotbed for racist behavior."

Marcus Vaughn worked in the Fremont, California factory from April 23 to Oct. 31. The lawsuit alleges that other factory workers regularly used the “N-word” around him. Vaughn sent formal written complaints both to human resources and CEO Elon Musk himself, but was terminated in late October for "not having a positive attitude," he claims.

"Although Tesla stands out as a groundbreaking company at the forefront of the electric car revolution, its standard operating procedure at the Tesla factory is pre-Civil Rights era race discrimination," Vaughn stated in the complaint.

According to Bloomberg, Vaughn is being represented by the California Civil Rights Law Group, which is the same law firm that sued Tesla on behalf of the other African-American former employees who complained about racial harassment this year. 

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The Drive

"The attorney who is filing this lawsuit previously brought a similar suit against Tesla earlier this year after the company refused his demand for a seven-figure payment in order to resolve the matter," a Tesla spokesperson told The Drive last month, regarding the previous lawsuit. "The timing of these new claims and the manner in which they are being publicized is notable, particularly coming from the same attorney." 

"Tesla takes any and every form of discrimination or harassment extremely seriously," the Tesla spokesperson said. "Recently, we launched an online anti-discrimination and harassment training that is required of all employees at every level. HR business partners also regularly conduct in-person spot training sessions with teams, especially when an allegation or complaint has been made but the evidence is not conclusive enough to warrant fair disciplinary action. Importantly, we’ve also created a dedicated employee relations team focused exclusively on investigating workplace concerns, recommending disciplinary action, and assisting leaders with action planning to improve employee behavior." 

We have reached out to Tesla for any additional comments regarding this latest lawsuit.

UPDATE: Tesla has once again provided detailed comments on this matter in a blog post. As before, Tesla says it takes matters of discrimination very seriously, with mandatory anti-discrimination training for all, spot training sessions where discrimination is alleged to have occurred, and a team dedicated to investigating and correcting cases of discrimination within the company. Some other key points from Tesla:

"There is only one actual plaintiff (Marcus Vaughn), not 100. The reference to 100 is a complete fabrication with no basis in fact at all."

"The plaintiff was employed by a temp agency, not by Tesla as claimed in the lawsuit."

"Marcus was not fired, he was on a six-month temp contract that simply ended as contracted."

"His email to Elon was about his commute and Tesla’s shuttles, which was addressed as he requested. There was no mention of racial discrimination whatsoever."

"The trial lawyer who filed this lawsuit has a long track record of extorting money for meritless claims and using the threat of media attacks and expensive trial costs to get companies to settle. At Tesla, we would rather pay 10 times the settlement demand in legal fees and fight to the ends of the Earth than give in to extortion and allow this abuse of the legal system."

You can read Tesla's full statement on the matter here.