June 8, 2023

Tesla Racism Lawsuit Could Become Class Action With 200+ Black Workers

A Black former assembly line staffer at Tesla is seeking to add almost 240 other workers to his 2017 lawsuit against the electric vehicle manufacturer which he described as a “hotbed for racist behavior.”

A pattern and practice of race discrimination

Marcus Vaughn, who formerly worked at Tesla’s Fremont factory in California, claims that Tesla allowed a “pattern and practice of race discrimination,” as per Bloomberg.

In response to Vaughn’s initial filing, Tesla published a blog post titled “Hotbed of Misinformation. The company denied wrongdoing, stating it had investigated the allegations and fired three people.

However, Monday’s court filing is backed by sworn statements from almost 240 other Black former employees and contractors who recount instances instances in the workplace. For example, one Black female worker reported that a co-worker called her “Nicki Minaj” despite her sharing no resemblance to the artist.

Complaints about offensive language, such as use of the n-word, and discrimination against Black employees were allegedly dismissed, with one worker reporting he was instructed to “keep my head down and mind my business” after complaining to a white supervisor about his mistreatment.

Raising the stakes for Tesla

The potential expansion of Vaughn’s case to a class-action status could have significant repercussions for the company which has typically denied wrongdoing in discrimination suits.

Vaughn’s legal team believes that up to 6,000 Black workers could be eligible to join the lawsuit. Not all participants may seek monetary damages, but the collective action would allow plaintiffs to pool their resources and negotiate from a stronger position.

If the court grants class-action status, it would increase the stakes for Tesla and require the company address and rectify the systemic racism that has persisted within the company.

Tesla has yet to the request for class status, but a hearing is set for July 14. If the court grants class-action status, it could have significant implications for Tesla and its efforts to address racism within the company.

A series of racism lawsuits

Vaughn’s lawsuit is not the first time Tesla has faced allegations of racial discrimination. Owen Diaz, another former employee, won a $137 million jury verdict in 2021. But this was later reduced to $15 million, and then just $3.2 million.

Other racism lawsuits have been filed by individuals such as Marc Cage who alleged that “virtually every restroom in Tesla’s Fremont facility contained writings or carvings of racist symbols or slurs, including swastikas and prominent displays of the n-word.”

Kaylen Barker filed a lawsuit accusing Tesla of “festering” racism “reminiscent of the Jim Crow era” by ignoring racial and homophobic slurs and physical harm. Barker alleges a white coworker struck her with a hot grinding tool while calling her the n-word.

Just last month, the Bay Area News Group reported that Karen Draper, a Black former human resources manager, filed a suit alleging she refused to illegally terminate a Latina worker targeted by a white manager.

One of two lawsuits filed against Tesla by the California Civil Rights Department accused the company of racially segregating Black workers. Tesla countersued, claiming the civil rights group of rushed through the requirements necessary to sue employers. California’s Office of Administrative Law denied Tesla’s petition.

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Samara Linton

Community Manager at POCIT | Co-editor of The Colour of Madness: Mental Health and Race in Technicolour (2022), and co-author of Diane Abbott: The Authorised Biography (2020)