The EEOC sued Tesla in September 2023, claiming that racial slurs, racial epithets and racial stereotypes were frequently used since at least 2015 toward Black workers and the Fremont factory was covered in racially offensive graffiti. The electric-car maker argued in court that the agency:
- Is wasting judicial resources with vague allegations
- Is intent on harassing Tesla through "a politically driven power grab."
- Fails to name a single victim or perpetrator” of the purported racial abuse and related retaliation.
- Has not identified a single incident, time, or shift where Tesla was aware of a violation of its anti-discrimination and harassment policy and failed to act.
Both of the state court cases are currently pending, with a hearing on a motion for class certification in Vaughn's case currently set for January 19. In a separate racial harassment lawsuit, Tesla is also appealing a $3.2 million award granted to a Black former elevator operator at the Fremont plant.
Law360 reported that Tesla argued over the race bias suit filed by the EEOC and how it’s also part of a public dispute between the federal agency and CRD that stems from the EEOC's $18 million deal with Activision Blizzard over allegations of sexism that the CRD tried to block. Tesla said the EEOC and CRD historically have worked together to avoid duplicating investigations and allegations, but that went by the wayside after the federal agency struck the $18 million deal. According to Law360, the California agency unsuccessfully tried to block the deal in February 2022 over fears that it would derail its own investigation into the company, and in March, the EEOC told a federal judge that the CRD was still impeding the agreement.
Tesla said the Activision debacle caused the CRD to hurriedly wrap up a race discrimination investigation and file its 2022 lawsuit against Tesla to avoid being outflanked by the EEOC again. As well, the EEOC also fast-tracked the end of its investigation, though it never visited the Fremont facility.
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The case is Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Tesla Inc., case number 3:23-cv-04984, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.