Two black men, a father and a son, are suing Tesla as well as other firms, claiming that the electric car giant engages in a pattern of racial harassment, creating a hostile work environment.
Owen Diaz and his son, Demetric, alleged that Demetric’s supervisor condemned black subordinates using racial slurs and vulgar verbiage.
In the lawsuit, the Diazes alleged that both of them were subject to racist tirades by their supervisors and co-workers.
Working at the Tesla factory in Fremont, California, the two said they were often told to “go back to Africa," and that bathroom stalls were frequently covered in racist imagery involving dark-skinned figures with bones in their hair.
The lawsuit even alleged that these blatantly racist caricatures had big lips and captions that red “Booo!”
Despite pressing their supervisor about the drawings, all the men heard back was: “We're just playing, why do you people take things so hard?"
Thankfully, they kept a photo.
According to Owen Diaz, no matter how often they complained about the harassment and discrimination, they were never taken seriously. In the end, West Valley fired Demetric, and Citistaff demoted his father, who eventually quit.
"It made me feel like I was less than a man," said Owen Diaz. "I couldn't do anything."
Now, however, he is doing something. And since both he and his son were contractors, they are able to take this case to court. Along with Tesla, contracting firms West Valley Staffing Group and Citistaff Solutions are named as defendants. And since they weren’t direct employees and are not forced to settle disputes through binding arbitration, a federal trial will begin in 2019.
When asked about the case, Tesla denied the allegations. To the automaker, the company should not be held responsible for another firm’s actions.
In a statement, Tesla said that it takes discrimination and harassment "extremely seriously.” They even claimed there's a dedicated Tesla team focused solely on investigating such claims and addressing concerns brought up by employees. They also require all members of staff to participate in anti-discrimination training.
"We will never be able to stop every single person in the factory from engaging in inappropriate conduct, but we will continue to do everything that we can to encourage the right behavior and to take action whenever something bad happens," the firm added.
Tesla affirms that the attorney for the Diazes, Larry Organ, is filing this suit as part of a “carefully planned media blitz in an attempt to create a disingenuous narrative.” They added that the only “relevant evidence” the company had found regarding the case was an email from Owen Diaz complaining about a co-worker being aggressive, not racist.
The Diazes responded, saying their goal is not to target Tesla. Quite the contrary, as Owen Diaz said he was more than happy to work at the company.
"I brought my son — I told him it was a good job," Owen Diaz said. "To me, that's probably one of the worst things I could have ever done for him, was put him in that situation."
While the case is yet to be tried, it’s concerning to think that such a large firm would be harboring racists.
It’s important to bring these cases to light, especially after Tesla was already accused of allowing similar incidents to happen in the past involving minorities and women.