Go read former Tesla employees’ experiences with racism in their own words

the Los Angeles Times has a great article that interviews three former Tesla employees about their experiences with racism, discrimination, and retaliation at the company, well worth a read. The story acts as a way to contextualize a lawsuit the automaker is currently facing, where the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing alleges the company has a “racially segregated workplace.”

Although the experiences described in the trial and in the Times‘ are similar (and equally disturbing), the ability to read actual interviews helps connect names, faces, and individual experiences to the situation at Tesla’s California facilities.

The workers have unique stories, but they share eerily similar lines of conduct. Two employees say they were “blacklisted” or “blackballed” after reporting racist behavior to their supervisors or HR. One recounts being given a job usually done by two people—another remembers asking a supervisor “would be fired. All report being constantly called the n-word – sometimes by managers, and often with the word “lazy” attached.

One of the employees says that going to HR put an end to the harassment of her colleagues, but for months afterwards she did not receive a performance review, raise or promotion. She was later fired for an accident where she hit a sprinkler with a forklift. Another worker, she said, hit five sprinklers and was able to keep her job. “They were waiting for me to make a mistake,” she said.

Other workers echoed similar sentiments. One said Tesla “started looking for a reason to fire him” after reporting his racist treatment to HR. The other said she felt like she was forced out of the company after being ‘harassed by supervisors’. Here is an example she gave:

HR emailed her that she was “under investigation for allegedly threatening someone,” she said. Bewildered, she asked who she had threatened and was told it was someone from the day shift.

But she had worked nights.

“The day shift people told them, ‘We don’t know her,'” Romby said. “It was just a bunch of BS”

Lawyers for the company (it no longer has a public relations department) have largely denied the allegations to the Times, and listed the reasons why he treated the employees the way he did. But this isn’t the first time Tesla has come under scrutiny for having a hostile workplace. Last year, a jury in California ruled the company should pay a former worker $137million in damages, after supervisors failed to do anything about his reports that he had been harassed with racist graffiti and the constant use of racial slurs.

The company also had to pay another former employee $1million after winning an arbitration claim – he reported his supervisor called him the n-word and hit back at him again after confronting him for having used the insult. Other employees accused the company of having a racist culture. (Again, Tesla has denied many of the allegations in these cases.)

But while reading court cases can certainly be instructive, it’s also important to see what employees have to say about the situations they found themselves in. It provides more context, as well as insight we might not have otherwise been able to get on how discrimination can emotionally affect people and their lives in the future. This is why the Los Angeles Times piece is important, and well worth a read.

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