Marcus Vaughn, a former black assembly line staffer at Tesla, has filed a lawsuit against the company, claiming that the production floor at Tesla’s Fremont, California factory was rife with racism. Vaughn now aims to include hundreds of additional workers in the lawsuit, accusing Tesla of tolerating a ‘pattern and practice of race discrimination’ and creating a hostile work environment, according to Bloomberg.
On June 5, Vaughn’s legal team submitted a request for class-action status in court, backed by sworn statements from nearly 240 other black former employees and contractors. They assert that they, too, experienced racist incidents, including offensive graffiti and the use of racial slurs such as the ‘n-word,’ ‘boy,’ and ‘monkey’ within the workplace. Vaughn’s lawyers estimate that up to 6,000 black workers could potentially join the case, although not all may seek financial damages.
If the judge grants Vaughn’s request, the implications for Tesla could be substantial. Earlier this year, a San Francisco jury awarded $3.2 million in damages to an individual worker in a similar discrimination case. In a separate trial, another worker initially received a $137 million verdict, although the damages were later reduced upon review.
Tesla responded to Vaughn’s original lawsuit by publishing a blog post entitled ‘Hotbed of Misinformation,’ denying any wrongdoing and claiming that three individuals were terminated following investigations into alleged incidents.
Former workers provided sworn declarations detailing their experiences. A female employee, terminated in 2018, disclosed that a co-worker referred to her as having ‘monkey toes’, while another called her ‘Nicki Minaj’, despite there being no resemblance between them aside from being black women.
As per the Bloomberg report, another worker, who left Tesla in 2020, alleged that when he complained about offensive language and unfair treatment of black employees to a white supervisor, he was told to “keep his head down and mind his business.”
This lawsuit adds to the series of legal challenges Tesla has faced over the treatment of black employees and contractors at its Fremont plant, including a lawsuit filed by the state of California in the preceding year.
Vaughn was initially employed by Tesla as a contractor through a staffing agency from April to October 2017 before being hired directly by the company in August of that year.