A former Tesla construction project manager is claiming the electric car maker’s facilities were filled with racist graffiti and that he was constantly peppered with bigoted insults on the job, filing what is the third racism-related suit against Tesla in California this month.
Marc Cage, who's African American, said he was discriminated against and harassed before being fired for reporting the discrimination as well as widespread construction violations in Tesla's factories to his superiors.
The complaint claims that "Tesla employees, with the full knowledge of Tesla's management, denigrated and harassed Mr. Cage on the basis of his race. Aside from countless stray racist comments made to him by coworkers with the knowledge of management, virtually every restroom in Tesla's Fremont facility contained writings or carvings of racist symbols and slurs, including swastikas and prominent displays of the N-word."
Cage filed his suit in the wake of one of the biggest racial discrimination settlements ever, that was also filed against Tesla by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which claimed that anti-Black harassment was pervasive at a Fremont factory that white workers called "the plantation." Slurs, insults and hateful graffiti were commonplace, and workers were segregated by race, according to the agency.
Cage said his experiences at Tesla were largely on par with the allegations in the department's complaint. He routinely came upon racist imagery and phrases on the walls of the workplace and his colleagues addressed him as "boy" and made other insulting and racist comments, Cage said.
Tesla knew about the rampant racism in its facilities but did nothing about it, Cage added.
On top of that, Cage said he witnessed and flagged "countless" safety and building code violations. Those included violations that risked massive explosions, serious on-the-job injuries that went unreported and a lack of qualified construction and safety personnel, according to the complaint.
Cage's primary responsibilities were to create and implement a quality control construction program and a special inspection program for all construction-related activities, per the suit. He said he reported these alleged issues to dozens of Tesla personnel, including individuals at the highest levels of the company. But those reports were ignored, Cage said.
"Unfortunately, at Tesla, his efforts to remedy noncompliance were received as antagonistic to the company's mission of scaling up production at any cost, including the health and safety of its employees," according to the complaint.
Cage said he was transferred out of his department and ultimately fired after repeatedly seeking the help of other employees, managers and Tesla's human resources department.
"Mr. Cage was fired for two reasons: his commitment to safety and his race," according to the complaint.
Tamarah Prevost, one of Cage's attorneys, said in a statement that Cage was a certified special inspector, trained to uphold the "highest level of construction compliance."
"Tesla ignored his reports, then fired him," Prevost said "Terminating Mr. Cage also perpetuates the company's troubling pattern of prioritizing speed of production over employee safety."
Cage also experienced what no employee should have to endure: "a blatantly racist workplace," Prevost said.
"Tesla's failure to remedy the outrageous treatment that he and other African American and Black employees experienced is unjustifiable," she said.
Tesla representatives didn't immediately return a request for comment late Tuesday.
Earlier this month, a Black former supervisor at a California Tesla factory filed a similar suit, claiming that a resentful white subordinate threw a tool at her and repeatedly called her the N-word. Tesla fired her for speaking up, she said.
Plaintiff Kaylen Sherrell Barker likened her experience to stepping back in time and being forced to endure "painful abuses reminiscent of the Jim Crow era."
Racism allegations against the company ramped up a week later when the DFEH filed its scathing complaint accusing Tesla of allowing racial discrimination to occur unchecked at its Fremont factory.
In that lawsuit, the agency said racism manifested in numerous ways at the factory, with Black workers being subjected to verbal abuse, given physically hard work, denied promotions and underpaid relative to their white peers.