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A former Tesla worker has alleged in a lawsuit that the company’s factory is a “hotbed for racist behavior” and black workers suffer severe and pervasive harassment.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Marcus Vaughn, an African-American who worked at the factory from April 23 to Oct. 31. Vaughn’s petition states that employees and supervisors regularly used the “N word” around him and other black colleagues. Complaints to human resources did not result in action beyond his own termination for “not having a positive attitude,” the suit says. Vaughn is seeking unspecified general and punitive monetary damages and an order for Tesla to prevent and correct harassment.
Tesla responded with a blog post titled “Hotbed of Misinformation,”:
Tesla is absolutely against any form of discrimination, harassment, or unfair treatment of any kind. When we hear complaints, we take them very seriously, investigate thoroughly and, if proven to be true, take immediate action.
Everyone at Tesla, without exception, is required to go through an anti-discrimination course. Our human resources team also conducts regular in-person spot training sessions when an allegation or complaint has been made, even if the evidence is not conclusive enough to warrant disciplinary action. We have also created a dedicated team focused exclusively on investigating workplace concerns, recommending corrective actions and assisting managers with implementing those actions.
Regarding yesterday’s lawsuit, several months ago we had already investigated disappointing behavior involving a group of individuals who worked on or near Marcus Vaughn’s team. At the time, our investigation identified a number of conflicting accusations and counter-accusations between several African-American and Hispanic individuals, alleging use of racial language, including the “n-word” and “w-word,” towards each other and a threat of violence. After a thorough investigation, immediate action was taken, which included terminating the employment of three of the individuals.
We believe this was the fair and just response to the facts that we learned. There will be further action as necessary, including parting ways with anyone whose behavior prevents Tesla from being a great place to work and making sure we do everything possible to stop bad behavior from happening in the first place. Our company has more than 33,000 employees, with over 10,000 in the Fremont factory alone, so it is not humanly possible to stop all bad conduct, but we will do our best to make it is as close to zero as possible.
There are a number of other false statements in the class action lawsuit alleging a so-called “hotbed of discrimination”:
– There is only one actual plaintiff (Marcus Vaughn), not 100. The reference to 100 is a complete fabrication with no basis in fact at all.
– The plaintiff was employed by a temp agency, not by Tesla as claimed in the lawsuit.
– Marcus was not fired, he was on a six month temp contract that simply ended as contracted.
– His email to Elon was about his commute and Tesla’s shuttles, which was addressed as he requested. There was no mention of racial discrimination whatsoever.
– The trial lawyer who filed this lawsuit has a long track record of extorting money for meritless claims and using the threat of media attacks and expensive trial costs to get companies to settle. At Tesla, we would rather pay ten times the settlement demand in legal fees and fight to the ends of the Earth than give in to extortion and allow this abuse of the legal system.
– We would also like to clear up the description of Elon’s prior email to employees. It is dedicated to ensuring that Tesla employees always try to do the right thing, that being a jerk is not allowed, that everyone should be contributing to an atmosphere where people look forward to coming to work in the morning and that no one should feel excluded, uncomfortable, or unfairly treated. As one of many points in that email, Elon also explained that if someone makes an offensive or hurtful statement on a single occasion, but subsequently offers a sincere apology, then we believe that apology should be accepted. The counterpoint would be that a single careless comment should ruin a person’s life and career, even if they truly regret their action and do their best to make amends. That would be a cold world with no forgiveness and no heart.
The post also included a copy of Musk’s email to employees: