Judge shoots down car maker’s defenses in Fremont factory racism lawsuit

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A federal court judge has shot down Tesla’s bid to escape a lawsuit by the federal government that alleges widespread racism at the company’s Fremont electric car factory.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Tesla in September, claiming Black workers were subjected to racial harassment that was “frequent, ongoing, inappropriate, unwelcome and occurred across all shifts, departments, and positions.”

Tesla in late December filed a motion to dismiss the case, but a judge on Friday rejected the company’s arguments.

Judge Jacqueline Corley, in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, noted that the commission alleged Black workers were addressed using a racial slur, that racial slurs and insults were used openly, and anti-Black graffiti, including swastikas and nooses, was scrawled on desks, elevators, bathrooms and equipment. Tesla, the commission alleged, knew about the abuse but failed to take action to end it.

Tesla, and lawyers representing the company in the case, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Corley shot down Tesla’s argument that because the commission did not identify any victims or perpetrators, or provide dates for purported racist incidents, it could not make valid legal claims about a hostile work environment.

The judge ruled that there was no need to identify those involved or provide dates because the commission was bringing the action on its own behalf, and was not representing particular people.

“The Commission’s factual allegations are sufficient to support the inference the alleged racial harassment was sufficiently severe to pollute Tesla’s Fremont factory and create an abusive
workplace for Black employees,” Corley wrote.

Tesla had also denied Black workers suffered retaliation for complaining about racial harassment. Corley cited the commission’s claims that Tesla fired Black workers within weeks of their complaints about the racial harassment, reassigned a Black employee to a more demanding part of the assembly line after she reported her supervisor for racial harassment, and repeatedly wrote up another employee after they complained of racial harassment. Those allegations were enough to infer that the actions taken against the workers were linked to their complaints, Corley wrote.

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