Racism Rampant at Tesla Factory, Black Worker Says

A Black Tesla worker has filed a suit against the electric vehicle maker in California state court, claiming that racial slurs were scrawled on the walls of the restrooms of the plant she worked in and that she endured mistreatment form an abusive supervisor who called the factory “the plantation.”

Raina Pierce’s discrimination, harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed Friday in Alameda County court alleges her boss would say “welcome to the plantation” or “welcome to the slave house” when employees would come into work.

“Tesla’s facilities contain the N-word throughout,” the suit alleged.

Pierce further claimed she’s been referred to as the N-word and that her supervisors spoke about her behind her back and called her “useless.”

Pierce started working at Tesla in January 2021, and she currently works there as a production associate installing latches on vehicle doors, her complaint stated. She contended she was disciplined more harshly than non-Black production workers and said her boss would yell at her for issues that would not merit the same treatment for others.

The Plaintiff further contended that one supervisor required her to handle physically heavy workloads usually assigned to multiple employees. When she told him that the cart she was tasked to push was too heavy for her alone, her supervisor ignored her.

Furthermore, when a higher-up caught on to her having to push heavy carts without assistance and told Pierce’s supervisor to delegate the work to multiple people, the supervisor made an offensive comment about his not being able to stand Black people.

Non-Black employees were also given the opportunity to swap workstations, she claimed, but found that her requests were denied.

Pierce also alleged that she was further retaliated against for flagging the discriminatory treatment.

Less than six months after making a report to Tesla’s Human Resources Department in May 2021, she called out sick to manage recurrent leg pain and an infection, according to the complaint. The company subsequently placed her on leave and wouldn’t let her return to work for three months, she alleged, and she said she found out her supervisors had said that they were “waiting for her to get kicked out of the team.”

She believed this forced leave was imposed in retaliation for her HR complaint.

The Tesla employee brought four claims under California Government Code, alleging harassment based on her race and gender, race discrimination, failure to prevent harassment and discrimination, and retaliation. She is seeking attorney fees and damages, as well as injunctive relief.

Pierce's lawsuit is the most recent race discrimination case lodged against Tesla, which is facing a wave of suits from individual former employees and a California agency.

The state's Department of Fair Employment and Housing lodged a bombshell complaint in February alleging widespread harassment at its Fremont factory and contending that slurs, insults and hateful graffiti were commonplace, and workers were segregated by race.

Two former Tesla employees brought similar suits in the following weeks. An ex-construction manager alleged the electric car maker's facilities were filled with racist graffiti and that he was constantly peppered with bigoted insults on the job, and a Black former supervisor claimed a resentful white subordinate threw a tool at her and repeatedly called her the N-word.

Earlier this month, a California federal judge weighed in on a jury's October 2021 decision to grant $137 million in damages to former subcontractor Owen Diaz over his 2017 race discrimination case, ultimately reducing the damages award to $15 million.

Despite significantly cutting down the award, the federal district judge found the evidence presented in the case "support[s] a finding of recklessness or indifference to Diaz' health and safety."

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