Tesla calls claims about racism being rife in the company “a hotbed of misinformation”

Tesla has responded to a lawsuit filed earlier this week that the company is a “hotbed for racist behaviour”, denying a culture of pervasive harassment and discrimination at the electric car maker’s HQ.

A former Tesla employee put forward claims this Monday that racism is rife on the company’s factory floor. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Marcus Vaughn who worked at the firm’s Fremont factory and alleges that co-workers and supervisors regularly used the N-word around him.

“Although Tesla stands out as a groundbreaking company at the forefront of the electric car revolution, its standard operating procedure at the Tesla factory is pre-Civil Rights era race discrimination,” Vaughn said in the complaint, filed in California’s Alameda County Superior Court.

Tesla has countered the claims with a statement – titled ‘Hotbed of Misinformation’ – that emphasises employees are required to go through an anti-discrimination course, and that previous action was taken to investigate racist behaviour “on or near Marcus Vaughn’s team”. This led to three employees being fired.

The statement also claims there are a number of false statements in the lawsuit. Tesla says Vaughn stopped working at the company because his six-month temporary contract had finished, not because he was fired. The company also questions the intention of the lawyer that filed the lawsuit:

“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.”

Tesla includes an email sent by Elon Musk in May 2017 – titled ‘Doing the right thing’ – where the CEO seeks to address the problem of employees being “jerks” to each other. We’ve included a copy of that below.

This week’s lawsuit comes at a time when Tesla is facing a different set of allegations about bullying behaviour at its Fremont factory. In September, the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed a complaint against Tesla, supporting claims from workers about intimidation and harassment within the company for those seeking unionisation. This was followed in October by protests outside the factory.

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