“Menial Tasks, Slurs and Swastikas: Many Black Workers at Tesla Say They Faced Racism”
The Verge, November 30, 2018
By Makena Kelly
Elon Musk was involved in at least two separate instances.
Over two dozen current and former black Tesla employees are describing racial discrimination in a New York Times investigation today that looks into the company’s Fremont factory.
The complaints range from being barred from promotions, forced to scrub the factory floors, and allege that supervisors have directed racial slurs at employees. The allegations come from a variety of interviews, internal communications, and legal statements acquired by The New York Times. Tesla disagrees that the factory is a harbor for racial discrimination, and says that there isn’t “a pattern of discrimination and harassment,” at the Fremont factory.
“Tesla opposes all forms of discrimination, harassment, and unfair treatment, and we strive to provide a respectful work environment for all employees and do our best to prevent bad conduct,” the company said in a statement to The Verge.
Last year, three former Tesla employees filed a lawsuit claiming that they were frequently subjected to racial slurs and drawings from both their supervisors and co-workers on the floor. At the time, a spokesperson for Tesla said that none of the individuals ever brought up these claims with their superiors. One plaintiff, Demetric Diaz, disagreed with the company’s response, saying that he brought up the use of discriminatory language with his supervisor, but no action was ever taken.
Elon Musk was aware of at least two different instances of discrimination at the factory. In the original lawsuit, according to The New York Times, Musk issued a company-wide email asking staff to not act like “huge jerks.” He also said, “if someone is a jerk to you, but sincerely apologizes, it is important to be thick-skinned and accept that apology.”
Another instance in the Times’ investigation involved a former black employee named DeWitt Lambert who worked as a production associate at Tesla. Co-workers repeatedly mocked his Southern accent and used racial slurs around him. He moved stations to get away from his taunters, but they followed him around the factory, the Times reported. Lambert had sent video evidence of the harassment to his supervisors, and filed a legal complaint against Tesla for not taking action. Tesla offered to settle for $100,000, but Lambert declined in order to pursue further litigation. Tesla’s general counsel, Todd Maron, said that Elon Musk was apologetic for not escalating the matter sooner, according to theTimes.
Tesla told us that throughout the reporting process, it cooperated with the Times to provide “clear, factual explanations” into the allegations. Tesla says that bad behavior is bound to occur “in a company the size of a small city,” and that the company’s rate of complaints is on par with any other company of a similar size.
“What matters most at Tesla is our clear opposition to all forms of discrimination, harassment, and unfair treatment,” the company said in its statement. “When we are notified that someone isn’t living up to these standards, we address it immediately, as should be expected of any good company.”