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Tesla Factory, East San Francisco bay area, CA. (Photo: Sundry Photography, Shutterstock)

Tesla Files Complaint with OAL Against Department of Fair Employment and Housing Over Lawsuit Issues

‘The court could order DFEH to make major changes too’

By Evan Symon, June 7, 2022 1:53 pm

Electric vehicle and clean energy company Tesla filed a complaint with the California Office of Administrative Law (OAL) on Tuesday against the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) over rushed filings of lawsuits, using “underground regulations,” and for not conducting full and proper investigations.

In February, the DFEH filed a lawsuit against Tesla for alleged racial discrimination against black workers at the Tesla Fremont factory. The DFEH said that they had received hundreds of such complaints, including workers being called racial slurs without corrective measures, pay discrimination, prevention of black workers promoted, and other forms of racial discrimination. One black worker told in a complaint that they were called racial slurs 50 to 100 times a day, with others saying that managers and supervisors even joined in or witnessed it happening to workers and didn’t do anything about it. Racist graffiti was also allegedly seen by workers on a daily basis. Due to the company’s policy of workers being contractually obligated to going to closed-door arbitration instead of court, few cases have come up against Tesla since the factory opened in 2010.

“After receiving hundreds of complaints from workers, DFEH found evidence that Tesla’s Fremont factory is a racially segregated workplace where black workers are subjected to racial slurs and discriminated against in job assignments, discipline, pay, and promotion creating a hostile work environment,”  said DFEH Director Kevin Kish in a statement in February. “For many Black and/or African American workers, the stress from the severe and pervasive racial harassment, the risk of a physical altercation and escalation with harassers, the blatant discrimination, the disproportionately severe discipline, and the futility of complaining, made the working conditions so intolerable that they resigned.”

Over the next few months, the case progressed, with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) starting an investigation against Tesla over those allegations. However, Tesla, in its own findings, began to gather enough evidence finding multiple things wrong with the DFEH’s suit and investigation. In April, they filed with the Alameda County Superior Court to halt the entire lawsuit for 120 days, as they said the DFEH had an ongoing “turf war” with the EEOC. On Tuesday, they continued to ramp up the legal pressure with the OAL filing.

“DFEH violated state law by suing Tesla without first notifying the company of all of the claims or giving it a chance to settle,” said Tesla to the OAL on Tuesday. “DFEH treats those requirements as a mere bureaucratic nuisance requiring only sham compliance.”

While judges noted on Tuesday that the motion to pause the lawsuit was likely not going to happen, the hearing is set for tomorrow. As an OAL ruling could help influence a halt to the suit, many legal experts noted on Tuesday that Tesla’s new complaint was possibly strategic.

“If the OAL comes out and agree with Tesla, or at least agrees on some of it, it can really change thinking over the entire lawsuit,” noted Gabe Turner, a lawyer who has represented businesses with similar complaints before, to the Globe on Tuesday. “If the court found that DFEH really has been rushing lawsuits and has not been doing investigations correctly, that can cast major doubt on them. It’s a smart move to do, especially if a company has few options remaining. You could, theoretically, box DFEH in to not just have the case dropped, but the court could order DFEH to make major changes too.”

As of Tuesday. neither the DFEH or the OAL has responded to Tesla’s new complaint.

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Evan Symon
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One thought on “Tesla Files Complaint with OAL Against Department of Fair Employment and Housing Over Lawsuit Issues

  1. Having Musk and his tax dollars move to Texas due to an unfriendly business climate was not smart California.

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