Black employees at Tesla factories were subject to racial abuse, barred from promotions, threatened by co-workers and repeatedly given demeaning assignments, according to a new investigation by the New York Times.
The Times interviewed more than two dozen current and former black Tesla employees, as well as looking at internal Tesla communications and legal statements.
A lawsuit filed last year by three former Tesla employees alleged near-daily acts of discrimination and said that the company did nothing about it.
After that suit was filed, Tesla C.E.O. Elon Musk sent out a company-wide email in which he warned employees to avoid being “a huge jerk” to a “historically less represented group.” Musk added however that if “someone is a jerk to you, but sincerely apologizes, it is important to be thick-skinned and accept that apology.”
Some of the new examples of racism documented in the Times story included racist taunts like “Hey boy” and “N*****” as well as in at least one case being asked to get on hands and knees to scrub the floor.
Another former employee, DeWitt Lambert, alleges that coworkers stole his phone and recorded a threat on it which they threatened to “cut you [DeWitt] up…so everybody can have a piece of you n*****.”
Lambert was offered a $100,000 settlement by Tesla last March, but the company’s general counsel said that payment was available “only if we are to resolve this matter before there is media attention.”
Tesla disagreed that there was any pattern of discrimination surrounding its factory in Freemont, California.
“Tesla opposes all forms of discrimination, harassment, and unfair treatment,” the company said in a statement to The Verge. “[The company] strives to provide a respectful work environment for all employees and do our best to prevent bad conduct.”
This isn’t the first time the Tesla factory has been under the spotlight. In April, the Center for Investigative Reporting wrote a story alleging that Tesla’s factory management was covering up on-site injuries. In response, Elon Musk called the reporting a “calculated disinformation campaign” before proceeding to have a tweetstorm meltdown in which he repeatedly criticized the press and promised to create a site where the public could vote on what articles they considered to be truthful.
“The holier-than-thou hypocrisy of big media companies who lay claim to the truth, but publish only enough to sugarcoat the lie, is why the public no longer respects them,” Musk tweeted, before insinuating that the Center for Investigative Reporting was in Big Oil’s pocket.