EEOC sues Tesla alleging widespread racist harassment of Black workers, retaliation against those who spoke out

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Vehicles pass the Tesla Inc. assembly plant in Fremont, California, U.S., on Monday, May 11, 2020.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has sued Tesla accusing Elon Musk’s electric car maker of violating “federal law by tolerating widespread and ongoing racial harassment of its Black employees and by subjecting some of these workers to retaliation for opposing the harassment.”

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The federal agency responsible for enforcing civil rights laws against workplace discrimination announced it was filing suit against Tesla on Thursday.

In their complaint, the EEOC alleged that non-Black offenders at Tesla “bandied slurs and epithets openly” around high-traffic work areas around or on the vehicle production lines. Allegedly, supervisors and managers witnessed the racially offensive conduct but failed or refused to intercede.

When Black workers at Tesla reported the “slurs, insults, graffiti and misconduct” to Tesla’s human resources department, employee relations teams or other managerial personnel, the agency said that Tesla failed and refused to take steps to address the behavior.

Tesla was previously sued by a state civil rights agency in California over related allegations. A jury also previously ordered Tesla to pay a Black former worker, Owen Diaz, about $3.2 million in damages after finding he endured racist discrimination working there in 2015.

Last year, a financial filing from Tesla revealed that the EEOC had issued a cause finding against the company. After that, Tesla engaged in a mandatory conciliation process with the EEOC the filing said. The conciliation process was not successful, leading to the suit announced Thursday.

According to a statement sent to CNBC by the federal agency, the EEOC is seeking “compensatory and punitive damages, and back pay for the affected workers, as well as injunctive relief designed to reform Tesla’s employment practices to prevent such discrimination in the future.”

The lawsuit (EEOC v Tesla, Inc., Case No. 4:23-cv-04984) was filed in a U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Read the lawsuit below: