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EEOC files federal lawsuit against Tesla, alleging discrimination, retaliation against Black employees

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(SAN FRANCISCO) — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against Tesla, alleging the company engaged in racial harassment and discrimination.

The complaint, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, comes following an EEOC investigation into Tesla’s treatment of Black employees.

The lawsuit, which was obtained by ABC News, claims that since at least May 29, 2015, Tesla has violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by subjecting Black employees at the company’s Fremont, California, manufacturing facilities to racial abuse, stereotyping, and hostility, including racial slurs.

The lawsuit claims that Tesla violated federal law by “tolerating widespread and ongoing racial harassment of its Black employees and by subjecting some of these workers to retaliation for opposing the harassment,” according to a statement released by the EEOC on Thursday. “The Commission also alleges that Defendant unlawfully retaliated against Black employees who opposed actions they perceived to constitute unlawful employment discrimination.”

The EEOC was established through the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and is a federal agency that works to protect civil rights in the workplace.

Tesla did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

Tesla said it “strongly opposes” all forms of discrimination in response to a separate discrimination lawsuit filed in 2022 against Tesla by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing, according to a New York Times report.

The lawsuit further alleges that various racial slurs were used against Black employees routinely and casually, often in high-traffic areas.

According to the lawsuit, employees who spoke out about the alleged harassment were allegedly retaliated against by Tesla, including instances of changes in job duties and schedules, unjustified write-ups, terminations and transfers, among other actions.

The EEOC is asking, in part, that the court order Tesla to provide victims with back pay and grant an injunction enjoining the electric car maker from its alleged discriminatory practices.

“Every employee deserves to have their civil rights respected, and no worker should endure the kind of shameful racial bigotry our investigation revealed,” said EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows in a statement on Thursday. “Today’s lawsuit makes clear that no company is above the law, and the EEOC will vigorously enforce federal civil rights protections to help ensure American workplaces are free from unlawful harassment and retaliation.”

The EEOC said it investigated Tesla after Burrow submitted a commissioner’s charge alleging that Tesla violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 due to its alleged treatment of Black employees. The EEOC says it tried “to reach a pre-litigation settlement through conciliation” before filing the suit.

“The allegations in this case are disturbing,” EEOC San Francisco District Office Regional Attorney Roberta L. Steele said in a statement. “No worker should have to endure racial harassment and retaliation to earn a living six decades after the enactment of Title VII.”

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