Tesla to be sued in California over 'systematic racial discrimination and harassment'

Tesla to be sued in California over 'systematic racial discrimination and harassment'

Tesla has announced it's going to be sued in California over alleged systematic racial discrimination and harassment.

The EV company has tried to get a leap on any legal action by denouncing any lawsuit from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) as "misguided".

According to the Elon Musk-run Tesla, the move comes after an extended investigation from the DFEH, whose mission is to protect workers.

The lawsuit will apparently focus on alleged misconduct by "production associates" at the company's Fremont factory between 2015 and 2019.

Last year a Black worker at Fremont, who accused the car maker of racial discrimination, was awarded US$137 million (NZ$205 million) by a jury.

Owen Diaz, a former elevator operator at the factory, was awarded the sum after the jury found Tesla failed to take appropriate steps to avoid race-based harassment.

That included racist graffiti in bathrooms and the use of racial slurs.

At the time Tesla Vice President Valerie Workman wrote a memo to employees saying the facts of the case did not warrant the large award, a large portion of which was punitive damages.

Tesla took immediate action on the three occasions Diaz complained about racism, she claimed.

According to Reuters, the DFEH didn't respond to a request for comment over the proposed new lawsuit.

The EV maker has faced other legal action recently, including being sued by two employees in 2021 who alleged a hostile work environment against women at the same factory in Fremont.

Tesla says the move by the DFEH is "both unfair and counterproductive", and the agency could have chosen to work constructively with the company instead.

"Over the past five years, the DFEH has been asked on almost 50 occasions by individuals who believe they were discriminated against or harassed to investigate Tesla," it said.

"On every single occasion, once concluded the DFEH has closed its investigation without a finding of misconduct against Tesla.

"It therefore strains credibility for the agency to now allege that systematic racial discrimination and harassment somehow existed at Tesla."

The company says it will ask the court to pause the case as soon as it's filed, saying the DFEH has declined to provide Tesla with specific allegations or the factual basis for the lawsuit.

"A narrative spun by the DFEH and a handful of plaintiff firms to generate publicity is not factual proof," the company stated.