For the time being, Tesla won’t be able to escape the California Department of Civil Rights’ complaint alleging racial discrimination and harassment.
A California judge tentatively rejected Tesla’s plea to dismiss the case on Tuesday night. The automaker’s Fremont factory, which DCR claims is a racially segregated workplace where Black employees have been subjected to mistreatment, harassment, unequal pay, and generally a hostile work environment, was the subject of DCR’s investigation. Tesla had argued that DCR did not follow proper protocol in its investigations.
The California Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo, who opposed halting the lawsuit in June, did impose a one-year statute of limitations on the DCR, according to a person familiar with the matter, even though the court provisionally dismissed the move. The source claimed that the potential decision places a high burden of proof on the DCR to demonstrate that racism exists on a regular basis in Tesla’s factory.
This judgment is provisional. As a result, a formal decision will be made after the hearing on Wednesday, allowing Tesla the chance to influence Grillo before the trial.
After gathering “hundreds of complaints from workers” and proof of widespread racial harassment and discrimination at Tesla’s Fremont facility, the DCR, formerly the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, first filed the lawsuit against Tesla in February. The DCR doesn’t go looking for these kinds of complaints. Individual employees would have had to make complaints to the department in order for an investigation to be opened.
The manufacturer has previously refuted accusations of misbehavior and a hostile work environment at its facility. The company referred to the DCR’s complaint as “misguided” in a blog post from February and claimed that the organization had neglected to give Tesla with any specific allegations or factual support for its claim.
Tesla has taken numerous actions to both reject the DCR’s allegations against the business and to restrain the agency’s power. Tesla accused the DCR of neglecting to carry out adequate investigations before to bringing a lawsuit against the automaker in a petition it brought to the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) in June. On Monday, the OAL rejected that plea, but stated that Tesla was free to pursue the issue further with the DCR or in court.
Tesla claims that the DCR developed “underground regulations,” failed to provide Tesla with fair notice of an investigation, and failed to assist in mediating any disagreements before going to court. This is one of Tesla’s defenses against the DCR.
The DCR complaint is not the first time Tesla’s Fremont location has been criticism for having a racist workplace culture. Marcus Vaughn, a former employee of the plant, filed a class action lawsuit against the manufacturer in 2017 for failing to look into claims that he had been subjected to repeated use of the “n-word” by managers and coworkers.
Both that case and Owen Diaz’s, a former Tesla elevator operator who is suing for comparable racial harassment, are still ongoing. Diaz recently challenged a judge’s $15 million judgment, which represented a significant reduction from a prior jury judgment of $137 million.