Federal judge in the US rejects car maker’s effort to dismiss lawsuit that alleges racism at California electric car factory
Tesla is facing another legal headache after a US federal judge rejected its attempts to dismiss a lawsuit that centres over alleged racism.
Two former workers at the California electric car factory where they worked claimed in a lawsuit the facility was a hotbed of racial hostility.
It comes after the boss of Tesla itself, Elon Musk, last month escaped financial penalties, when he won a lawsuit brought by British cave diver Vernon Unsworth.
But now Tesla itself this week faced its own legal action when on Monday US District Judge William Orrick in San Francisco found open questions over whether Owen Diaz and his son Demetric Di-az faced “severe and pervasive racial harassment”.
According to Reuters, both men faced the racial harassment in 2015 and 2016, at Tesla’s factory in suburban Fremont, which employs more than 10,000 people.
Both plaintiffs are black, and alleged they were subjected to repeated racial epithets dozens of times, as well as racist cartoons, and that supervisors engaged in or did little to stop the racism.
Lawrence Organ, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, was quoted by Reuters as saying that his clients are seeking damages “in the millions” of dollars.
Owen Diaz reportedly worked at Tesla for 11 months as an elevator operator, while his son spent two months as a production associate.
Judge Orrick said Diaz could pursue claims that Tesla allowed and did not take reasonable steps to stop racial harassment.
He said punitive damages might be available if Tesla must have known about the harassment and “ratified” it, even if only lower level workers were directly involved.
“The n-word is perhaps the most offensive and inflammatory racial slur in English, a word expressive of racial hatred and bigotry,” Judge Orrick wrote. “This case will proceed to trial.”
The trial is set to begin 11 May, 2020.