US agency suing Tesla for race bias says no need to pause lawsuit

Jan 4, 2024

By Daniel Wiessner

(Reuters) – A U.S. anti-discrimination agency has asked a federal judge to reject Tesla Inc’s bid to pause a lawsuit alleging widespread racial bias at the electric carmaker’s flagship Fremont, California, assembly plant.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in a filing in federal court in San Francisco late on Wednesday said its September lawsuit is not duplicative of two other pending racial discrimination cases against Tesla, as the company had argued in an attempt to pause the case last month.

“Tesla has filed a groundless motion in a transparent attempt to deflect attention from the EEOC’s substantive allegations and the serious racial problems that pervade its Fremont Facilities,” the agency said.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The EEOC alleges that from 2015 to the present, Black workers at the Fremont plant have routinely been subjected to racist slurs and graffiti, including swastikas and nooses, and have faced retaliation for complaining.

California’s Civil Rights Department in a 2022 lawsuit accused Tesla of tolerating similar conditions and discriminating against Black workers when making decisions about pay, promotions and work assignments. A pending proposed class action filed by Tesla workers in 2017 also alleges racial harassment.

Tesla, which has denied wrongdoing, also is appealing a $3.2 million award granted to a Black former elevator operator at the Fremont plant in a separate racial harassment lawsuit.

In its motion last month, Tesla claimed that the commission had rushed to sue the company as part of an interagency feud with the California agency. Tesla said that because the claims are similar, the California case and the proposed class action should play out before the EEOC case moves forward.

The commission on Wednesday said its case is not redundant because it alleges violations of a federal workplace discrimination law, while the other cases are in state court and involve California laws. The EEOC also disputed Tesla’s claim that it did not give the company an opportunity to settle the claims before suing.

Tesla last month also moved to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the EEOC failed to identify any specific instances of discrimination. The commission has not yet responded to that filing.

 

(Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York, Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi)

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