Judge Likely To Dismiss Tesla Bid To Dismiss California Race Lawsuit

Image credit: Tesla

California judge warns Tesla he will likely deny its motion to dismiss lawsuit from California agency that alleges widespread race discrimination

Tesla has been warned it is unlikely to succeed in its attempt to dismiss a lawsuit filed against it, alleging widespread racial problems at the Tesla’s factory in suburban Fremont.

Reuters reported a California Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo in Oakland in a tentative written order rejected Tesla’s claims that the lawsuit would be unmanageable because it involves thousands of employees, and a Californian agency failed to notify the company of all the claims before it sued in February.

It was back in February this year when the State of California’s civil rights agency, known as the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) sued Tesla in February for race discrimination and harassment at its Fremont factory.

Agency lawsuit

Confusingly, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) is now known as the Department of Civil Rights (DCR), as of July this year.

The lawsuit alleges Tesla violated the Fair Employment and Housing Act and the California Equal Pay Act.

It said that it had received “hundreds” of complaints and conducted a three year long investigation.

DCR also alleged that Tesla turned a blind eye to years of complaints from black workers protesting the near-constant use of racial slurs and derogatory language in the workplace.

It said black workers had also protested against the presence of racist writing and graffiti in common areas of the workplace, including swastikas and other hate symbols.

The agency is said to be seeking unspecified damages and for Tesla to reinstate workers who were unfairly terminated.

Tesla however was infuriated by the lawsuit, and previously said the lawsuit was “misguided” and was “a narrative spun by the DCR and a handful of plaintiff firms to generate publicity.”

It pointed out that during its three year investigation, the DCR “never once raised any concern about current workplace practices at Tesla.”

In April Tesla asked a California judge to pause the lawsuit, but now Judge Grillo has warned the world’s most valuable car maker, he would likely deny its bid to dismiss the lawsuit.

According to Reuters, during a hearing on Wednesday, Judge Grillo said he needed more time to issue a final decision.

California judges often issue tentative written rulings before court hearings. It was not clear when Grillo could issue a final decision.

CRD dismissal

Tesla has already been handed a legal setback in this matter earlier this week.

The car maker in June had filed a complaint with a different state agency, the California Office of Administrative Law (OAL), claiming the CRD’s alleged lapses were widespread and the procedures adopted by the agency are unlawful.

The OAL is the agency in California that reviews state agency regulations and can recommend changes.

The OAL earlier this month declined to review Tesla’s petition without giving a reason for doing so.

The OAL did however state that Tesla can still pursue its challenge in the courtroom.

Essentially Tesla’s challenge with the OAL was an attempt to rein in the department’s authority to pursue discrimination cases, by forcing it to take additional steps before suing, such as providing businesses with detailed explanations of alleged legal violations and making efforts to settle outside of court, Reuters reported.

Other lawsuit

Tesla is also battling another high profile lawsuit in California.

In January 2020 Owen Diaz hit Tesla with a lawsuit, alleging he had faced “severe and pervasive racial harassment” in 2015 and 2016, whilst working at Tesla’s factory in suburban Fremon

In October 2021, a federal jury ordered Tesla to pay $137 million in damages, for subjecting Diaz to a hostile work environment at the Fremont plant.

Then in April a federal judge ruled that Tesla was still liable to pay damages, but he reduced the $137 million jury award to $15 million.

Owen Diaz has since rejected the reduced award and opted for a new trial, which is scheduled for March 2023.