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Elon Musk's Alleged Response To Tesla Racism Complaints: 'Be Thick-Skinned And Accept Apology': Report (UPDATE)

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Another former Tesla employee is seeking permission from a judge to sue Tesla for racial harassment on behalf of over 100 affected African-American workers, according to a report from Bloomberg Technology. The complaint, Vaughn v. Tesla Inc. in the Superior Court of California, alleges that Tesla workers, including supervisors, regularly used derogatory and discriminatory language against black workers.

Here’s more, from Bloomberg:

“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 employee 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.”


Vaughn also claimed that Tesla’s workplace was a “hotbed for racist behavior,” and follows another lawsuit alleging racially-driven harassment and discrimination filed against the automaker last month.

Vaughn’s complaint also allegedly quotes a letter from CEO Elon Musk, via Bloomberg:

According to Monday’s complaint, Musk sent an email to Tesla factory employees on May 31.

“Part of not being a huge jerk is considering how someone might feel who is part of [a] historically less represented group,” Musk wrote in the email. “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 said in an interview Monday. “Tesla is not doing enough. It’s somewhat akin to saying ‘stop being politically correct.’ When you have a diverse workforce, you need to take steps to make sure everyone feels welcome in that workforce.”


I’m not sure how somebody could “unintentionally” use the “N-word” against a fellow employee, and the sheer amount of accusations against the company could suggest something more than a policy of apologies and thick skin is needed.

Other recent lawsuits filed against Tesla include claims that the company failed to give proper notice when laying off hundreds of workers, claims concerning anti-LGTBQ harassment, a complaint from a woman engineer alleging harassment, and a complaint from the National Labor Relations Board defending employee claims that Tesla attempted to suppress a unionization effort.

Jalopnik was unable to obtain a copy of the lawsuit prior to publishing, and has reached out to Tesla for comment. This post will be updated when more information becomes available.

Update, November 15, 2017 11:00 a.m.: Tesla has released a statement in response to the latest complaint and accusations, which you can read here.