Tesla | Car maker embroiled in 'racial bias' lawsuit by 6,000 Black staff

Car maker embroiled in 'racial bias' lawsuit by 6,000 Black staff

A California state judge has tentatively ruled that nearly 6,000 African-American factory workers can proceed with a group lawsuit against Tesla for alleged failure to address widespread race discrimination and harassment at its Fremont plant.

The ruling, issued by California Superior Court Judge Noel Wise in Oakland, signals a major challenge for the electric vehicle maker.

The lawsuit stems from allegations raised by Marcus Vaughn, a former assembly line worker, who initially filed the suit in 2017.

Vaughn's complaint outlines a disturbing pattern of racist behavior experienced by African-American factory workers, including derogatory slurs, graffiti and even nooses hung at their workstations.

Despite Tesla's assertion of maintaining a ‘zero-tolerance policy’ towards workplace harassment and claims of terminating employees involved in racial harassment, Judge Wise's tentative ruling indicates otherwise.

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The judge's written order suggests that the lawsuit raises common questions about whether Tesla was aware of the alleged misconduct and failed to take necessary preventive measures.

Lawrence Organ, Vaughn's lawyer, expressed satisfaction with the ruling and emphasized the accumulation of complaints over time, indicating Tesla's failure to address racial harassment adequately.

Tesla's response to the ruling remains pending, as the company did not immediately comment on the matter. However, the decision presents a significant legal setback for Tesla, potentially exposing the company to a substantial financial judgment.

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The class action includes individuals who self-identified as African-American and worked at the Fremont factory since November 2016. Judge Wise intends to proceed with a trial in October, coinciding with another trial involving similar claims against Tesla by a California state civil rights agency.

Additionally, Tesla faces race bias allegations in federal court brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, further complicating the legal landscape for the company. Tesla has sought dismissal or a pause in the federal case pending the resolution of other lawsuits.

In addition, Tesla is currently embroiled in an appeal process concerning a $3.2 million jury verdict awarded to an African-American former elevator operator at the Fremont plant in a separate racial harassment lawsuit.

The initial verdict, amounting to $137 million, was deemed excessive by a judge, leading to an order for retrial.

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