A black, gay woman who made and inspected brake parts for Tesla is suing the company. She alleges she suffered racial abuse and physical assault while working there.
Kaylen Baker filed her suit against Tesla and staffing company Staffmark on Tuesday.
She says in the suit Tesla failed to address racist abuse directed toward her by a coworker, and that the company retaliated against her when she tried to report the abuse. She described the environment as “festering” racism.
A White coworker struck Baker with a hot grilling tool while calling her the n-word, “stupid, dumb” and a “bitch,” according to the complaint. The coworker was fired after Baker complained to Tesla’s HR department but they were later “shockingly rehired” about two weeks later “without any forewarning or explanation.”
According to Business Insider, the suit also alleges that one of her coworkers – named Joanne – started directing this racial abuse toward Baker after getting a promotion. She allegedly would mutter the N-word under her breath as Baker walked by.
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She says her abuse occurred even as Tesla defended another contract worker’s discrimination case in court. The company lost and was ordered to pay $137 million in damages, according to Bloomberg.
“I feel like I have been tortured and sent back in time before African Americans had civil rights,” 25-year-old Baker said in a statement. She went on to say she was “violated physically, mentally, and emotionally” because she’s “an African American lesbian.”
She was hired to work at Tesla’s Lathrop, California, sub-assembly plant by a staffing agency in February 2021. She was fired at the end of October 2021 after lodging complaints to her supervisor, according to the complaint. The company also withheld five of Baker’s paychecks from her final months at the factory. She calls the moves retaliatory.
Baker also refused to sign a “document falsely confessing to being insubordinate” even though human resources pushed her to do so daily for almost a month leading up to her termination, according to the lawsuit.
This isn’t Tesla’s first complaint about racial and sexual harassment. The company’s Fremont factory has a long history of harassment complaints. According to Bloomberg, many of these complaints never make it to court because Tesla’s full-time employees sign agreements requiring workplace disputes to be handled in closed-door arbitration.
Baker is, of course, not a full-time employee of Tesla.
She is being represented by J. Bernard Alexander, III. He happens to be the same attorney who represented the Tesla employee who won the $137 million in damages from the company in October 2021.