Tesla Faces Racial Discrimination Charges at California Factory

A California man has filed a class action lawsuit against U.S. automaker, Tesla Motors. The company is accused of creating a “hotbed for racist behavior” in its Fremont, California factory.

Marcus Vaughn, an African-American man, filed the lawsuit on November 13, 2017. This is at least the third discrimination suit that the company has been served this year, although it is the first class action suit. The previous lawsuits accuse Tesla of discrimination against gay and older workers, which the company denies.

Vaughn is suing on behalf of himself and all other former or current African-American employees working on the production floor of the Fremont factory from November 9, 2016 to the present. The lawsuit claims the Class suffered “severe and pervasive harassment at the Tesla Factory because they are African-American” in violation of the rights granted to them by the California state law, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).

Vaughn began working at the Tesla Factory in April of 2017. He states that he experienced “an intimidating, hostile, and offensive work environment for African-American employees,” and was frequently called the “n-word” by coworkers and supervisors. Vaughn and other Class members allegedly made multiple attempts to end the discrimination by “reporting repeated instances of race-based harassment to supervisors, Human Resources, and Chief Executive Officer, Elon Musk.”

Vaughn’s complaint was submitted in writing to Human Resources Business Partner Rose Sanson and CEO Elon Musk on July 21. He referenced the discrimination faced by himself, fellow employee Tim Cotton, and other African-American employees. According to the complaint, a supervisor encouraged employees during a safety meeting to “speak up” if they experience discrimination. Tim Cotton allegedly said that he was uncomfortable when fellow Tesla employees used racial slurs on the production line. “Since that day,” Vaughn wrote, “there has been so much back lash. From him getting hit in the back of the head with the chair, to him getting called bipolar, sensitive, people say [racial slurs] around him just to get a reaction out of him.”

Despite the complaint, Vaughn says the company did not investigate his claims. He accuses Tesla of “failing to take necessary steps to prevent race-based harassment and failing to take appropriate corrective action once such race-based harassment has occurred.” The lawsuit compares Tesla’s anti-discrimination policies to those from the “pre-Civil Rights Era.”

On October 31, Vaughn was terminated from his position at the Tesla Factory for “not having a positive attitude.”

The Plaintiff Class requests a trial by jury and is seeking declaratory and injunctive relief; back pay; front pay; compensatory and punitive damages; and attorneys’ fess, costs and expenses to redress Tesla’s pervasive, discriminatory employment policies, practices and/or procedures.

Vaughn is represented by Lawrence Organ and Navrus Avloni of the California Civil Rights Law Group and Bryan Schwartz and Logan Starr of Bryan Schwartz Law. The suit is Marcus Vaughn et al. vs. Tesla Inc., filed in the Superior Court of the State of California County of Alameda.

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