Tesla has filed a complaint against the California Office of Administrative Law (OAL) and the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), accusing the agencies of rushing to file lawsuits against businesses without conducting investigations.
Tesla’s ten-page complaint was first seen by Reuters and stated that the OAL and DFEH adopted “underground regulations” that disregard basic requirements that need to be met before lawsuits can be filed in a justified manner. Tesla was accused in February of operating a racially segregated workplace at its Fremont Factory in Northern California, where African-American employees were harassed, discriminated against, and faced constant racial attacks on a somewhat daily basis.
Tesla’s filing on Tuesday aims to challenge the DFEH’s lawsuit by claiming the agency violated California laws by not first notifying the automaker of its claims nor giving it a chance to settle before submitting the case. Tesla posted a blog several days before the lawsuit was published refuting the claims, but details from the DFEH showed the allegations were incredibly serious.
The DFEH suit claimed:
“As early as 2012, Black and/or African American Tesla workers have complained that Tesla production leads, supervisors, and managers constantly use the n-word and other racial slurs to refer to Black workers. They have complained that swastikas, “KKK,” the n-word, and other racist writing are etched onto walls of restrooms, restroom stalls, lunch tables, and even factory machinery. They have complained that Black and/or African American workers are assigned to more physically demanding posts and the lowest-level contract roles, paid less, and more often terminated from employment than other workers.”
In October, a former Fremont factory employee, Owen Diaz, was awarded $137 million after suffering racial abuse while working at the plant from 2015 to 2016. Tesla challenged the payout, which was eventually reduced to $15 million. However, it is just one of many claims of racial abuse at the factory.
In response to the DFEH’s lawsuit, Tesla stated:
“Tesla strongly opposes all forms of discrimination and harassment and has a dedicated Employee Relations team that responds to and investigates all complaints. We also have a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team whose work is shown in this public report. Tesla has always disciplined and terminated employees who engage in misconduct, including those who use racial slurs or harass others in different ways. We recently rolled out an additional training program that reinforces Tesla’s requirement that all employees must treat each other with respect and reminds employees about the numerous ways they can report concerns, including anonymously. Above all, Tesla continues to seek to provide a workplace that is safe, respectful, fair, and inclusive—all of which are vital to achieving our mission.”
Tesla urged judges in April to pause the DFEH lawsuit as the agency “has been asked on almost 50 occasions by individuals who believe they were discriminated against or harassed to investigate Tesla,” the automaker said. “On every single occasion, when the DFEH closed an investigation, it did not find misconduct against Tesla. It therefore strains credibility for the agency to now allege, after a three-year investigation, that systematic racial discrimination and harassment somehow existed at Tesla. A narrative spun by the DFEH and a handful of plaintiff firms to generate publicity is not factual proof,” Tesla wrote.