Tesla was sued yesterday by a California state agency that says the Elon Musk-led carmaker is stonewalling an investigation into alleged discrimination and harassment.
“Tesla’s failure to comply with my office’s obligation to investigate allegations of workplace misconduct shows a lack of respect for the rights and well-being of their workers,” Kevin Kish, director of the California Civil Rights Department, said today in a press release. Kish said his agency “will not accept any attempts to obstruct our investigation” and that “Tesla is not above the law.”
The agency’s press release said that Tesla “fail[ed] to comply with a subpoena in connection to an ongoing, confidential investigation into allegations of unlawful harassment and discrimination.” The agency filed a petition in Alameda County Superior Court asking for “an order directing respondent Tesla to appear before this Court and to show cause as to why it has refused to comply and/or not fully complied with CRD’s investigative discovery.”
The agency says the court should also order Tesla to produce a witness for a deposition and “provide full, complete responses” to the subpoena. The confidential investigation that led to yesterday’s complaint began in April 2021.
“Sex, race, and disability discrimination”
The Civil Rights Department’s petition said the investigation concerns “allegations of unlawful harassment and discrimination tolerated and fostered by respondent Tesla… The Complainants have all alleged instances of discrimination and harassment against respondents Tesla for matters including, but not limited to, sex, race, and disability discrimination.”
The Civil Rights Department, then known as the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, sued Tesla in February 2022 in a case alleging systemic racial segregation at the carmaker’s Fremont factory. The complaints that led to yesterday’s filing are separate from those in last year’s lawsuit.
With the new case, the Civil Rights Department said it is seeking documents and a deposition with a Tesla official who can address the allegations. The department said:
CRD is vested with the authority to issue and enforce subpoenas. As part of the investigation, CRD sought to depose an individual who Tesla believes would be knowledgeable of the alleged misconduct and related policies and procedures. However, Tesla failed to adequately respond and, to date, has declined to make an individual available. As a result, CRD is seeking a court order to compel compliance with its investigation into alleged instances of discrimination and harassment involving a group of workers.
We contacted Tesla today and will update this article if we get a response.
Tesla faces several other discrimination suits
Tesla is facing several racial discrimination lawsuits. In one of them, the California Supreme Court yesterday denied “Tesla’s bid to force two Black workers to arbitrate their discrimination claims,” according to a Bloomberg Law article. “The court’s seven justices, during their weekly conference, declined without comment the automaker’s request to review an appellate ruling that the workers also can pursue a public injunction against the company under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.”
That case began in November 2017. In another lawsuit filed in July 2022, 15 factory employees alleged that Tesla’s “standard operating procedures include blatant, open, and unmitigated race discrimination.”
Yet another racial discrimination lawsuit, filed against Tesla by former freight elevator operator Owen Diaz, resulted in a $3.2 million jury verdict earlier this month. A previous jury ruled that Tesla should pay $137 million to Diaz, but a judge reduced the damages to $15 million. Diaz rejected the $15 million award and sought the new damages trial that reduced his payout even further.
Tesla is also facing lawsuits from women who allege that the company failed to stop rampant sexual harassment in California factories and service centers.