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Black worker says Tesla factory was a “hotbed for racist behavior”

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Tesla Factory in Fremont, California.

Tesla’s factory in Fremont is a “hotbed for racist behavior,” according to a legal complaint filed in California’s Alameda County Superior Court on Monday and reported by Bloomberg.

Marcus Vaughn is an African-American who worked on Tesla’s factory floor from April to October of this year. Vaughn charges that workers and managers on the factory floor routinely used the n-word within his earshot. When he complained to the human resources department, Vaughn says, he was fired for “not having a positive attitude.”

According to Bloomberg, Vaughn is seeking to be the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit on behalf of more than 100 black Tesla workers.

The lawsuit was filed by Lawrence Organ, the same civil rights lawyer who sued on behalf of three other black Tesla workers for racial discrimination last month. Those men also said they routinely heard people on the factory floor using racial epithets. A third lawsuit, alleging similar facts, was filed in March.

The complaint also quotes a May e-mail from CEO Elon Musk that seemed dismissive of problems at the factory.

“Part of not being a huge jerk is considering how someone might feel who is part of [a] historically less represented group,” Musk allegedly wrote. “Sometimes these things happen unintentionally, in which case you should apologize. In fairness, if someone is a jerk to you, but sincerely apologizes, it is important to be thick-skinned and accept that apology.”

“The law doesn’t require you to have a thick skin,” Organ told Bloomberg. “When you have a diverse workforce, you need to take steps to make sure everyone feels welcome in that workforce.”

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