Tesla has been hit with two lawsuits in less than week from former employees, citing instances of discrimination at the electric vehicle company.
On 16 October, news emerged that three African American men filed a lawsuit with California's Alameda County Superior Court claiming that they had each endured regular racial discrimination and abuse while working at Tesla's Fremont factory.
The incidents referenced include "racist and derogatory caricatures of African children" and the regular use of racial slurs. The three plaintiffs also allege that the Elon Musk-owned company failed to intervene once the incidents had been reported to supervisors.
Tesla denied the latter allegations in a statement, claiming that "none of these individuals has ever brought a claim about their time at Tesla until now, in some cases years after they were last at Tesla".
Today (20 October), Tesla has been forced to defend itself against another allegation of workplace discrimination and a further lawsuit citing unfair dismissal. The defendant in the latest case, former Tesla assembly line worker Jorge Ferro, alleges that he was harassed for being gay and threatened with violence.
Ferro claims he was told to "watch [his] back" by a supervisor that also taunted the 35-year-old over his "gay tight" clothes. Despite reporting the behaviour to a manager on two occasions, it was Ferro who was punished, reports The Guardian.
Ferro alleges that he was moved to other assembly lines after reporting the incidents before eventually being sent home – and consequently having his employment terminated – after an HR representative spotted a scar on his wrist. According to Ferro, he was told that there is "no place for handicapped people at Tesla".
In a strongly worded statement, Tesla took umbrage with the claims and media coverage of the lawsuits:
"Media reporting on claims of discrimination at Tesla should bear a few things in mind: First, as one of the most highly reported-on companies in the world, anyone who brings claims against Tesla is all but assured that they will garner significant media coverage. Second, in the history of Tesla, there has never been a single proven case of discrimination against the company. Not one. This fact is conveniently never mentioned in any reporting. Third, as we have said repeatedly, even though we are a company of 33,000 employees, including more than 10,000 in the Fremont factory alone, and it is not humanly possible to stop all bad conduct, we care deeply about these issues and take them extremely seriously. If there is ever a case where Tesla is at fault, we will take responsibility. On the other hand, Tesla will always fight back against unmeritorious claims. In this case, neither of the two people at the center of the claim, Mr. Ferro and the person who he alleges to have mistreated him, actually worked for Tesla. Both worked for a third-party. Nevertheless, Tesla still stepped in to try to keep these individuals apart from one another and to ensure a good working environment. Regardless of these facts, every lawyer knows that if they name Tesla as a defendant in their lawsuit, it maximizes the chances of generating publicity for their case. They abuse our name, because they know it is catnip for journalists. Tesla takes any and every form of discrimination or harassment extremely seriously. There is no company on Earth with a better track record than Tesla, as they would have to have fewer than zero cases where an independent judge or jury has found a genuine case of discrimination. This is physically impossible."
Tesla is already involved in a high-profile lawsuit brought by a female former engineer citing "unwanted and pervasive harassment" towards women within the company.