Lawsuit against Tesla alleges a manager told an employee he ‘didn’t act ghetto’

A new lawsuit by 15 current or former Black staffers alleges consistent harassment and intimidation at Tesla's California plants.

A new lawsuit against luxury automaker Tesla Inc. by 15 current or former African American employees alleges consistent harassment and intimidation at its California plants. 

The latest lawsuit is one of several against the company alleging an ongoing pattern of racial discrimination. According to The Mercury News, the new lawsuit lists dozens of defendants, but the company’s founder, Elon Musk, is not among them.

In an April aerial view, Tesla cars sit parked in a lot at the Tesla factory in Fremont, California. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Some of the allegations include the presence of racist graffiti and the use of racist slurs against the Black employees, which Tesla managers did nothing about. Additionally, the plaintiffs allege that Black employees were often assigned the most physically demanding jobs in the Fremont plant and were regularly passed over for promotions. 

One Black defendant, Nathaniel Aziel Gonsalves, a former associate manager at Tesla’s Foster City plant, said a supervisor told him he “wasn’t like most Black people” and that he “didn’t act ghetto.” When he reported a vile slur against another worker, Gonsalves says his boss and other staffers blasted him for ”siding with the minorities,” according to the lawsuit.

Another employee who is listed in the lawsuit claimed that he was working on solar panels at Musk’s home and made the same complaint about Gonsalves to Tesla’s founder directly. Gonsalves was fired less than two hours after their conversation without investigation. 

Tesla’s human resources department and Gonsalves’ regional manager told him the decision “came from higher up,” says the lawsuit. 

One previous plaintiff against Tesla, Owen Diaz, recently turned down a reduced $15 million award after a jury had awarded him a $137 million judgment. Diaz rejected the amount, saying it would not deter the auto manufacturer from future misconduct. 

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing is also suing the company for alleged racial discrimination and harassment. 

Kevin Kish, the agency’s director, said in a statement, according to The Wall Street Journal: “After receiving hundreds of complaints from workers, DFEH found evidence that Tesla’s Fremont factory is a racially segregated workplace where Black workers are subjected to racial slurs and discriminated against in job assignments, discipline, pay, and promotion, creating a hostile work environment.” 

The defendants in the latest lawsuit are seeking unspecified damages and civil penalties, as well as an order that Tesla improves its training and enforcement to prevent harassment, discrimination and retaliation. 

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