Tesla took a small victory in a huge lawsuit filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), as a judge said the civil rights agency must detail the investigation it performed prior to filing the suit.
According to California law, the DFEH is required to investigate discrimination by workers before suing their employers, and if the agency did not properly perform this, Tesla could have details thrown out of the case, making it easier to win.
Judge Evelio Grillo of the California Superior Court said in a tentative ruling that Tesla needed to be investigated by the agency before the DFEH could file the suit, according to Reuters. Grillo was the same judge that dismissed Tesla’s countersuit, which claimed the agency did not properly notify the automaker of the allegations of racial bias before the DFEH sued it in February 2022.
The claims stem from several claims by former employees who state they were racially discriminated against, listing various occurrences from 2015 to 2019.
The most notable case is that of Owen Diaz, who was awarded $137 million in 2021 by a judge. Diaz, a former contract employee at the Fremont Facility in Northern California, said he was racially discriminated against during work hours. Tesla appealed the payout, which was reduced to $15 million, and requested a retrial in October 2022.
The trial is set to begin on March 27.
Tesla said last year it knew of the DFEH lawsuit and issued statements before it was officially filed:
“The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) intends to file a lawsuit against Tesla alleging systematic racial discrimination and harassment. This follows a three-year investigation during which the DFEH—whose mission is supposedly to protect workers—has never once raised any concern about current workplace practices at Tesla. Rather, the lawsuit appears focused on alleged misconduct by production associates at the Fremont factory that took place between 2015 and 2019.”
Tesla also said that the DFEH asked discriminated-against employees on nearly fifty occasions whether the company performed misconduct, but it was cleared 100 percent of the time.
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