A U.S. federal agency that enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination can now be added to the list of agencies that is investigating Tesla.
In a court filing on Monday related to a separate case, the automaker revealed that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has an "open investigation" into Tesla, a finding first reported by Bloomberg. The disclosure was tucked inside a filing with the California Superior Court in Alameda County related to a case involving the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Tesla lawyers asked a judge in the document filed April 18 to pause a California lawsuit that alleges racial discrimination and harassment at Tesla's Fremont manufacturing plant.
Tesla claims the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), which filed the lawsuit against Tesla in February, is exceeding its legal authority and "using litigation as a bullying tactic and to advance its turf war" with EEOC, which had already been investigating the automaker before DFEH filed its suit. (The "turf war" Tesla is referring to involves EEOC's settlement of a sexual harassment lawsuit against video game company Activision Blizzard.)
TechCrunch has reached out to DFEH and EEOC for comment. We will update the article if either agency responds.
When DFEH filed suit, it said it had received "hundreds of complaints from workers" and found evidence that the Fremont factory is a “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." Tesla posted a blog in February attacking the DFEH and calling the lawsuit "misguided."
Tesla's lawyers noted in Monday's filing that DFEH didn't show worker complaints to the company until after the agency filed its February suit.
In October 2021, Tesla was ordered to pay $137 million in damages to a Black former contractor who accused the company of ignoring discrimination and racial abuse -- like slurs and swastika graffiti -- at the same plant. While U.S. District Judge William Orrick agreed with the jury's finding he was compelled to reduce the punitive damages to $15 million.
Previously, in 2017, a former employee also filed a lawsuit against Tesla for failing to investigate claims of the employee being repeatedly called the "n-word" at the Fremont plant, which was described in that lawsuit as "a hotbed for racist behavior."