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New Lawsuit Accuses Tesla Supervisors of Using Racial Slurs, Sharing ‘Pickaninny’ Pictures

Three former Black employees of Bay Area Tesla plant are suing after they say they were subjected to racial harassment on the job.

In a lawsuit filed Monday, Oct. 16, the three factory workers claim their co-workers, and in some cases their supervisors, routinely called them the N-word, NBC Bay Area reported. 

Owen Diaz, a former elevator operator at the car maker’s Fremont factory, said the racist harassment began soon after he started working at the plant in June 2015. Diaz said his co-workers hurled racial slurs at him and told him to go back to Africa.

To make matters worse, the former employee said he also found pickaninny-like drawings depicting derogatory images of Black Americans around the plant.

Diaz told the station he tried his best to ignore the constant harassment, but an instance involving his son, who was also employed at the local plant, was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“I was turning the corner, I was coming out to give my son his lunch, and his supervisor started calling him a f—–g [N-word],” he said.

Diaz complained to the staffing agency that placed him at Tesla and sent an email to his boss saying he didn’t feel safe around a co-worker who had harassed him. Things did not change, however. Diaz’s son, Demetric, was terminated not long after he started and Diaz himself wound up quitting less than a year into the job, according to NBC Bay Area.

“[I] couldn’t take it anymore,” he said.

Former employee and third complainant Lamar Patterson, who worked as an elevator operator between January 2016 and August 2016, also quit because of the race-based harassment. The group’s lawsuit requests a jury trial and seeks unspecified damages, Business Insider reported.

The staffing companies who placed the workers at Tesla are also named in the suit.

Diaz, his son, and Patterson aren’t the first workers with accusations of racial discrimination and harassment against the popular car company, however. In March, ex-Fremont worker DeWitt Lambert filed a separate suit saying co-workers harassed him by calling him racial slurs and making sexually explicit comments. He also said that Tesla failed to protect him even after he took his complaints to HR and showed them a video of the ongoing harassment.

Lambert’s case has since been moved to arbitration.

“We’ll never be able to stop every single person in the factory from engaging in inappropriate conduct,” a Tesla spokesperson told NBC Bay Area, “but we will continue to do everything that we can to encourage the right behavior and to take action whenever something bad happens.”

The company pointed out that the men never filed a formal complaint about the racist language and behavior during their time at the plant, however. Tesla said that it now requires all employees to complete anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training.

The company issued this statement in response to the lawsuit:

“No employee should ever feel harassed or mistreated based on their race, gender, beliefs or anything else. There are over 33,000 people working at Tesla, and given our size, we recognize that unfortunately at times there will be cases of harassment or discrimination in corners of the company. For there to be zero cases in a global workforce of 33,000 would be impossible for any company, no matter how much we care. And we care a lot, particularly given how hard everyone at Tesla works to do what most regard as impossible. In situations where Tesla is at fault, we will never seek to avoid responsibility. But in this instance, from what we know so far, this does not seem to be such a case.”


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