A former Black Tesla assembly line worker is seeking to expand his 2017 lawsuit, which originally accused the automaker’s production floor of fostering a “hotbed for racist behavior.” Marcus Vaughn, the initial plaintiff, contends that granting class-action status is crucial to addressing Tesla’s failure to curb a “pattern and practice of race discrimination” and create a hostile work environment at its Fremont, California factory.
According to Bloomberg, Vaughn filed a request in court on June 5th, supported by sworn statements from approximately 240 other Black former employees and contractors of Tesla. These individuals all report being offended by racist graffiti in common areas and the use of slurs within the workplace. The slurs, including the derogatory “n-word,” “boy,” and “monkey,” were allegedly employed by coworkers. While Vaughn’s legal team suggests that up to 6,000 Black workers could join the case, not all would necessarily seek monetary damages.
Should the judge in Oakland grant Vaughn permission to expand the lawsuit, it could spell trouble for Tesla and its CEO, Elon Musk. Typically, companies try to prevent lawsuits from achieving class-action status, as it allows plaintiffs to combine their resources and wield greater leverage during settlement negotiations.
Reportedly, Tesla responded dismissively to Vaughn’s lawsuit through a blog post titled “Hotbed of Misinformation,” seemingly playing on his previous “hotbed for racist behavior” statement.
In a court declaration, a female worker who was terminated in 2018 disclosed that a coworker referred to her as having “monkey toes,” while another colleague called her “Nicki Minaj,” despite her bearing only a superficial resemblance to the popular rap artist by virtue of both being Black women.
Another worker, who resigned in 2020, stated that when he raised concerns about the use of offensive language and unfair treatment of Black employees to a White supervisor, he was advised to “keep my head down and mind my business.”
A third worker expressed feeling unwelcome and unsafe even after verbally complaining about being subjected to racial slurs such as the N-word, which were disregarded by the company.
According to Bloomberg, Tesla has faced several notable lawsuits alleging racism, including one brought by the state of California in February 2022 concerning the treatment of Black employees and contract workers at the Fremont plant.