Elon Musk told Black employees to suck it up when it came to discrimination and harassment, according to a letter issued by the Tesla CEO.
Marcus Vaughn worked in the Fremont factory from April 23 to Oct. 31 and claimed that while he was there, other employees as well as supervisors would often use the N-word around him and other Black employees. He claimed that he complained about the environment but was terminated for “not having a positive attitude.”
Now, Vaughn is seeking permission from a judge to sue Tesla on behalf of more than 100 African-American Tesla workers.
“Although Tesla stands out as a groundbreaking company at the forefront of the electric car revolution, its standard operating procedure at the Tesla factory is pre-Civil Rights era race discrimination,” the complaint, which was filed on Monday, states.
The complaint also described a letter sent by Musk on May 31 basically telling employees who complained about workplace discrimination and harassment to get over it.
“Part of not being a huge jerk is considering how someone might feel who is part of [a] historically less represented group,” Musk wrote in the email. “Sometimes these things happen unintentionally, in which case you should apologize. In fairness, if someone is a jerk to you, but sincerely apologizes, it is important to be thick-skinned and accept that apology.”
Larry Organ, an attorney at the California Civil Rights Law Group, which has sued Tesla on behalf of other African-American employees in harassment cases this year, said that the letter is not a good enough response from the CEO of a company.
“The law doesn’t require you to have a thick skin,” Organ said. “Tesla is not doing enough. It’s somewhat akin to saying ‘stop being politically correct.’ When you have a diverse workforce, you need to take steps to make sure everyone feels welcome in that workforce.”