A New York Times report published on Friday features claims by African-American workers at Teslaâ€™s Fremont, California plant that they were racially harassed.
The Times pieces together a combination of interviews, internal communications, and sworn legal statements from over two dozen current or former Tesla workers. Alleged incidents listed in the reporting include a crude, racist drawing; the use of racial slurs; the drawing of swastikas; and African-American employees being assigned to menial tasks due to their race.
Tesla, of course, denies that there is any pattern of racial harassment while acknowledging to the Times that in a large plant there may be a few bad apples.
The Times piece is a long read, and Tesla claims several of the complainants had performance issues. The claimants dispute this.
A lawsuit filed last year accusing the company of racial discrimination and harassment is seeking class-action status. That suit was filed in California Superior Court. Tesla is seeking to get that case placed in arbitration, where workers would have to file individually instead of with joint claims.
Californiaâ€™s Department of Fair Employment and Housing has issued 10 â€œright to sueâ€� letters. These letters are a prerequisite for a discrimination lawsuit, and the department says each is for an employee complaining of racial bias. There are dozens of other complaints pending against the company, according to the department, but it would not tell the NYT how many involved race.
One complainant declined a settlement offer. This employee even sent cell-phone video to management as evidence.
Other African-American employees, mostly in managerial roles, said their experiences at Tesla were much more positive.
Whether thereâ€™s a pervasive culture of racism at Tesla, or these incidents are outliers (if true), it seems weâ€™ll know more in the coming days as legal filings occur and documents become available via public records or media leaks.
The only thing thatâ€™s clear is that Tesla canâ€™t avoid the spotlight.