Tesla accused of racial discrimination in lawsuit

A lawsuit calls the automaker's factory in Fremont, California, a "hotbed for racist behavior."

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A former Tesla employee is accusing Tesla of racial discrimination at its Fremont, California, factory.

James Martin/CNET

Tesla Motors is being accused of allowing its California production plant to become a "hotbed for racist behavior."

A racial discrimination lawsuit, filed Monday in California Superior Court in Oakland, said black employees were addressed by racial slurs and company management ignored their complaints. The lawsuit is at least the third filed this year against Tesla alleging racial discrimination at its Fremont, California, factory.

Monday's lawsuit, filed by former Tesla employee Marcus Vaughn, said Vaughn was routinely called the "n-word" by supervisors and coworkers after he began working at the factory in April. He says he complained in writing to human resources officials, but those complaints were never investigated.

Vaughn says he was fired in October for "not having a positive attitude." The lawsuit seeks class-action status and unspecified damages under California anti-discrimination law.

Tesla representatives didn't respond to a request for comment Tuesday but said in a company blog post Wednesday that several months ago it fired three employees after investigating "disappointing behavior" involving individuals who worked with or near Vaughn.

"At the time, our investigation identified a number of conflicting accusations and counter-accusations between several African-American and Hispanic individuals, alleging use of racial language, including the 'n-word' and 'w-word,' towards each other and a threat of violence," the company said in its statement. "After a thorough investigation, immediate action was taken, which included terminating the employment of three of the individuals."

Tesla also said that Vaughn wasn't fired as stated in the lawsuit, but rather was a temporary employees whose contract wasn't renewed.

The lawsuit is the latest in a growing number of lawsuits accusing Tesla of discrimination. In March, another black employee sued the automaker, alleging he was sexually harassed, racially harassed and racially discriminated against at the Fremont facility. A trio of former employees made similar claims in a lawsuit filed against the company in October.

Updated 11/14 at 11p.m. with Tesla comment.

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