Tesla Inc. has filed a countersuit against the California Civil Rights Department after the agency accused the company of fostering racial bias at its main factory. Tesla denies the accusations, and says that it is committed to providing a safe and welcoming environment for all employees.
The world's most valuable car maker said that state officials did not give it adequate notice of claims or earnestly engage in efforts to resolve the dispute, in violation of state law.
Tesla has filed a complaint in Alameda County Superior Court, alleging that the Department of Fair Employment and Housing's conduct "is entirely inconsistent with the principles of fair notice, neutral investigations, good faith conciliation, and mandatory pre-suit mediation" required under state law. According to the complaint, the suit was brought unlawfully without seeking public comment or holding a hearing.
A judge recently rejected Tesla's arguments that the company's Fremont plant is not a "racially segregated workplace." The Department of Labor's complaint described the plant as having segregated areas for white and black workers.
Tesla has asked a court to issue an order barring the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) from applying what it considers to be "invalid and unlawful underground regulations" to company investigations. Tesla argues that the NHTSA has not yet come up with a new set of rules governing such investigations.
A spokesperson for the agency was not available for comment outside of regular business hours.
Tesla has filed a countersuit against the Department of Labor, one day after the department asked a judge to order Tesla to cooperate with an investigation into an individual's civil rights complaint against the company. The agency alleges that Tesla is withholding documents related to race-based harassment complaints, internal investigations, and disciplinary records. Tesla denies these allegations and claims that the Department of Labor is overreaching in its investigation.
Tesla has been uncooperative with the CRD's investigation by refusing to provide the requested information. This has made it difficult for the agency to proceed with its inquiry.
Earlier reports by Reuters and the Wall Street Journal indicated that a countersuit would be filed. The agency said in its February complaint that Black workers at Tesla complained to the department about hearing racial slurs on a daily basis, and seeing racist graffiti on restroom walls, work stations, lunch tables, and other areas.
Tesla has said that it is "strongly opposed to all forms of discrimination and harassment." This includes discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and any other form of discrimination. Tesla is committed to creating a safe and inclusive environment for all of its employees and customers.
A former contractor for Tesla who won a $137 million jury verdict over racist abuse at the factory is headed for a retrial against the company in March. The contractor disagreed with a judge who said the award should be reduced to $15 million.
The case is Tesla Inc. v. California Civil Rights Department, 22CV006830, California Superior Court, Alameda County. This case involves Tesla's alleged failure to prevent discrimination and harassment at its Fremont, California factory.
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