A couple of days ago we noted a lawsuit filed against Tesla in the Superior Court in Alameda County which, among other things, alleged that his Fremont manufacturing facility was a "hotbed for racist behavior" in which employees and supervisors "regularly use the 'N word.'" Bloomberg summarized the case as follows:
Tesla Inc.’s production floor is a "hotbed for racist behavior," more than 100 African-American employees claimed in a lawsuit in which they alleged black workers at the electric carmaker suffer severe and pervasive harassment.
The employees are seeking permission from a judge to sue as a group and are seeking unspecified general and punitive monetary damages as well as an order for Tesla to implement policies to prevent and correct harassment.
"Although Tesla stands out as a groundbreaking company at the forefront of the electric car revolution, its standard operating procedure at the Tesla factory is pre-Civil Rights era race discrimination," the employees said in the complaint, filed Monday in California’s Alameda County Superior Court.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Marcus Vaughn, who worked in the Fremont factory from April 23 to Oct. 31. Vaughn alleged that employees and supervisors regularly used the “N word” around him and other black colleagues. Vaughn said he complained in writing to human resources and Musk and was terminated in late October for "not having a positive attitude."
But, in an angry blog post published on Tesla's website, the embattled electric car darling has fired back saying that media reports of a "hotbed of racist behavior" at Tesla are nothing more than a "hotbed of misinformation" spread by a trial lawyer who "has a long track record of extorting money for meritless claims and using the threat of media attacks and expensive trial costs to get companies to settle."
There are a number of other false statements in the class action lawsuit alleging a so-called “hotbed of discrimination”:
- There is only one actual plaintiff (Marcus Vaughn), not 100. The reference to 100 is a complete fabrication with no basis in fact at all.
- The plaintiff was employed by a temp agency, not by Tesla as claimed in the lawsuit.
- Marcus was not fired, he was on a six month temp contract that simply ended as contracted.
- His email to Elon was about his commute and Tesla’s shuttles, which was addressed as he requested. There was no mention of racial discrimination whatsoever.
- The trial lawyer who filed this lawsuit has a long track record of extorting money for meritless claims and using the threat of media attacks and expensive trial costs to get companies to settle. At Tesla, we would rather pay ten times the settlement demand in legal fees and fight to the ends of the Earth than give in to extortion and allow this abuse of the legal system.
Given those silly fiduciary duties he has as a Tesla board member, Elon may not want to openly flaunt his willingness to "pay ten times" more in legal fees just to settle a personal vendetta...just a thought.
Meanwhile, Elon also decided to address a portion of a firm-wide email published by Bloomberg suggesting the Tesla employee who felt discriminated against should have been more "thick-skinned" by publishing the entire email that, in fact, confims that Elon said the guy should be more "thick-skinned."
We would also like to clear up the description of Elon’s prior email to employees. It is dedicated to ensuring that Tesla employees always try to do the right thing, that being a jerk is not allowed, that everyone should be contributing to an atmosphere where people look forward to coming to work in the morning and that no one should feel excluded, uncomfortable, or unfairly treated. As one of many points in that email, Elon also explained that if someone makes an offensive or hurtful statement on a single occasion, but subsequently offers a sincere apology, then we believe that apology should be accepted. The counterpoint would be that a single careless comment should ruin a person’s life and career, even if they truly regret their action and do their best to make amends. That would be a cold world with no forgiveness and no heart.
Of course, somehow we suspect that Tesla shareholders would prefer that Elon focus on learning how to weld rather than spend his time publicly responding to what he clearly views to be a "frivolous" lawsuit.