Black Tesla Employees Detail Culture of Racism and Harassment That Led to California’s Discrimination Lawsuit Against Company

Monica Chatman, a former Tesla employee, says she was subjected to racist slurs and assigned the most arduous tasks because of her race. (Paul Kuroda / For The Times)

Warning: This story quotes several racist slurs allegedly directed at Black workers at Tesla’s California plant, according to a lawsuit filed against the company.

A single mother was excited to land a job at Tesla. About three years in, she was fired, she said, after complaining that Black workers were frequently called the N-word on the assembly line.

A former refinery worker couldn’t wait to get into green energy. She said she soon found herself and other Black workers assigned to the most arduous tasks in a corner of the factory co-workers called “the plantation.”

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An Army veteran was promoted to a fleet manager job. He said he was fired after he complained that his boss called him and two Black co-workers “monkeys.”

In interviews with The Times, three Black former employees described how jobs at the pioneering automaker devolved into personal nightmares due to a pattern of rampant racism and harassment at Tesla’s Fremont, Calif., factory.

Their accounts expand on allegations in a Feb. 9 lawsuit filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing on behalf of more than 4,000 current and former Black workers at the world’s most valuable car company — the largest racial discrimination suit ever brought by the state by number of workers affected.

The three former employees describe a workplace where racist slurs in English and Spanish were often aimed at Black employees by co-workers and supervisors, as alleged in the lawsuit. They say Tesla segregated Black workers into separate areas, gave them the hardest tasks and routinely denied them promotions.

And they allege that when they informed the company about racist treatment, their complaints went ignored or they were fired.

Tesla disputed the former employees’ accounts, stating that the three workers did not complain to the company about racism and that any discipline they received was the result of their own workplace behavior.

“Race plays no role in any of Tesla’s work assignments, promotions, pay or discipline,” attorneys for the company said in a statement. “Tesla prohibits discrimination, in any form.”

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SOURCE: LA Times, Margot Roosevelt and Russ Mitchell

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