Federal Judge Denies Tesla’s Attempt to Dismiss Lawsuit Alleging Rampant Racism at Fremont Factory

San Francisco, California – A federal court judge has denied Tesla’s attempt to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging racism at the company’s Fremont electric car factory. The EEOC claimed that Black workers at Tesla were subjected to frequent racial harassment across all shifts, departments, and positions.

In response to the lawsuit, Tesla filed a motion to have the case dismissed, but the judge rejected their arguments. Judge Jacqueline Corley of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco highlighted the EEOC’s allegations of Black workers being addressed with racial slurs, the open use of racial slurs and insults, and the presence of anti-Black graffiti throughout the factory. The EEOC also accused Tesla of being aware of the abuse but failing to take action to stop it.

Tesla has not yet commented on the judge’s decision. The company had argued that since the EEOC did not identify specific victims, perpetrators, or dates of incidents, they could not make valid legal claims about a hostile work environment. However, the judge ruled that the EEOC was representing itself and did not need to provide those details.

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

Additionally, Tesla had denied allegations that Black workers faced retaliation for reporting racial harassment. However, the judge cited the EEOC’s claims that Black employees were fired shortly after making complaints, that one worker was reassigned to a more demanding part of the assembly line after reporting racial harassment, and another worker was repeatedly disciplined after complaining. Corley found these allegations enough to infer a link between the workers’ complaints and the actions taken against them.

This lawsuit by the EEOC is one of several that accuse Tesla of allowing widespread racism against Black employees. California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing has also filed a lawsuit against Tesla, claiming that Black workers at the Fremont facility experienced pay disparities, denied opportunities for advancement, and faced daily racist abuse. Tesla has characterized this lawsuit as misguided and unfair.

A major lawsuit filed in 2017 by Marcus Vaughn alleges that nearly 6,000 Black current and former Tesla workers experienced racism at the company. The case has since been granted class-action status, allowing more individuals to join as plaintiffs. Tesla addressed this lawsuit in a blog post, acknowledging disappointing behavior among a group of workers and stating their opposition to discrimination and harassment.

Despite numerous complaints and lawsuits, racial discrimination at Tesla’s Fremont factory has continued, according to court filings and interviews with current and former Black workers. In a 2017 letter, Tesla CEO Elon Musk addressed treatment at the factory, advising employees to be thick-skinned if someone is rude to them but apologizes.

Tesla also argued that the EEOC’s lawsuit should be dismissed because it was similar to the lawsuits filed by the state civil rights agency and Marcus Vaughn. However, the judge ruled that Tesla failed to prove that the lawsuits in Alameda County Superior Court would resolve the issues between the company and the EEOC, which filed its lawsuit under federal civil rights law.

Furthermore, Tesla claimed that the EEOC had not met the requirement to confer with the company about its claims before filing the lawsuit. The judge rejected this argument, stating that the EEOC had engaged in conciliation efforts with Tesla between July 2022 and June 2023, including a seven-hour, in-person conciliation session.

The judge’s decision allows the EEOC’s lawsuit against Tesla to proceed, bringing attention to the allegations of widespread racism at the company’s Fremont factory.