Tesla fights California agency behind race bias lawsuit

Tesla Inc hit back Thursday with a California agency that accused the electric car maker of condoning widespread racial discrimination at its flagship assembly plant.

Tesla said in a complaint filed in state court in Alameda County that the California Department of Civil Rights (CRD), which sued the company in February, adopted “confidential regulations” that allow it to file the lawsuit without first notifying Tesla of the claims or giving the company an opportunity to settle.

Tesla’s counter-suit alleges that CRD violated state law by not seeking public comment before adopting measures to investigate and prosecute the employers.

The Tesla logo appears at a Tesla showroom in Shanghai, China, January 7, 2019. (Reuters/Ali Song/Reuters Photo)

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Tesla claims these actions violate a requirement that CRD disclose details of its investigations to employers and make attempts to settle claims out of court before filing a claim.

Tesla is seeking an injunction preventing CRD from following its alleged illegal procedures in investigating any employer and requiring the agency to adopt new regulations through a formal rule-making process.

A CRD spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Tesla made similar claims in an effort to dismiss the California agency’s lawsuit, which was rejected by a state judge last month.

But the complaint filed Thursday could allow the company’s lawyers to reveal new details about CRD’s practices and investigations into Tesla through the discovery process, which could bolster its efforts to dismiss the case.

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CRD claims that Tesla’s main factory in Fremont, California, is a racially segregated workplace where black employees have faced racial insults and graffiti and have been discriminated against in terms of job assignments, discipline and pay.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk attends the opening of the Tesla Berlin Brandenburg plant in Gruenheide, Germany, Tuesday, March 22, 2022. The first European plant in Gruenheide, designed for 500,000 vehicles a year, is an important pillar in Tesla’s future ((Patrick Pool / Pool via AP) / AP Newsroom)

Tesla has denied any wrongdoing and said the lawsuit was politically motivated.

The company in June asked a separate California agency, the Administrative Law Office, to investigate CRD’s alleged adoption of illegal policies. The OAL last month refused to review Tesla’s petition without explaining its decision.

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Austin, Texas-based Tesla also faces a series of racial and gender discrimination issues by workers, most of them involving the Fremont plant.

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A state judge in April reduced the jury’s ruling for a black worker alleging racial harassment from $137 million to $15 million. The plaintiff rejected the reduced sentence and opted for a new trial, scheduled for March 2023.

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