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  /  World News   /  California Tesla factory accused of ‘severe’ racism in lawsuit

California Tesla factory accused of ‘severe’ racism in lawsuit

(KRON) — A California court has certified a class-action lawsuit alleging “severe and pervasive race harassment” against Black workers at a Tesla factory, according to an order filed on May 17.

The court said that approximately 500 declarations submitted for and against the motion suggest that over the span of about eight years, Tesla employees at the factory in Fremont “heard the N-word and otherwise experienced conditions that might reasonably be characterized as race harassment.” 

In 2017, Tesla created a “centralized internal tracking system to document complaints and investigations,” the suit claims. Despite having a formal complaint system at the factory, the plaintiffs’ declarations suggest that Tesla failed to take “immediate and appropriate corrective action” regarding them. 


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According to the order, over 200 plaintiffs working at the Fremont factory reported hearing the N-word, with 112 claiming they have filed a complaint to management and 16 formally filed written complaints in total. 

Of the more than 200 Black workers who gave sworn statements, about two-thirds said they saw anti-Black graffiti, including nooses, racial slurs and swastikas. About three-quarters said they heard Tesla workers refer to the Fremont plant as “the plantation” or “the slave ship,” according to a court filing. A quarter also allege higher-ups called them the N-word.

Some of the other complaints include the following:

Plaintiff Adrianna Leaks said that she complained to a supervisor. The supervisor was terminated, and there was no change in racist behaviors.

Plaintiff Albert Blakes claims he complained to human resources, and there was no change in racist behaviors.

Plaintiff Alvin Patterson asserts he complained to leads and supervisors, and they denied that racism was a factor in promotions. Patterson also contends that he complained about his supervisor, was referred to HR, then received more harassment from his supervisor and was warned by HR about his own workplace conduct.

Formal rebuttals

Tesla submitted declarations to the court, saying if it was informed about racist incidents, it took “immediate and appropriate corrective action” to deal with them appropriately.  

Tesla declarant Robert Brown is a supervisor who states that he has observed workers use the N-word. In 2017 or 2018, Brown said “he observed an incident involving the word and reported it to HR.” He also claims that in 2019, he counseled his team that music with the N-word was not appropriate for the workplace. 


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Tesla declarant Philip Buchannan is a supervisor who states that an employee reported to HR that a coworker called him a “monkey,” that “HR promptly investigated,” and that Tesla “terminated the employee who used the inappropriate language.”

Tesla declarant Jeremiah Clark states, “I personally have seen graffiti using racial slurs. When I see it, I see that it is removed quickly by the building facilities team.” 

Future action 

The lawsuit claimed that “pre-Civil Rights Era race discrimination” was standard procedure at the Tesla plant and that race harassment both continued and became widespread because Tesla, despite being aware of it, did nothing to stop it.

Tesla said in a 2022 blog post that it “strongly opposes all forms of discrimination and harassment” and claimed that it “has always disciplined and terminated employees who engage in misconduct, including those who use racial slurs or harass others in different ways.”

Since this is a class action, the lawsuit will now revolve around whether there was a pattern of widespread racial abuse at the Fremont factory, whether Tesla knew or should have known about it, and if Tesla did know, whether it “failed to take immediate and appropriate action to stop it.”

The hundreds or thousands of workers who may wish to seek damages from Tesla over their treatment at the factory must file separate, individual lawsuits and answers to the three questions would “establish common facts” to simplify those cases, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Noel Wise wrote.

“There is much work to do, but we believe we will succeed in showing at trial that there has been a pattern and practice of pervasive race harassment at Tesla’s Fremont factory, that Tesla knew or should have known about it, and that Tesla did not do enough to clean it up and stop it from happening again and again,” said Matthew Helland, of Nichols Kaster, LLP, co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs.