Former assembly line worker Marcus Vaughn is seeking to turn his 2017 lawsuit against Tesla into a class action case. 


Last month, 240 Black factory workers filed testimonies in Alameda County Superior Court in support of Vaughn’s lawsuit. The testimonies were filed by contractors and employees who have worked at Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, located just southeast of San Francisco. The workers described widespread racism at the facility. 


The workers reported numerous incidents of racial slurs and derogatory references to the factory as a “plantation” and “slave ship.” Supervisors and managers were among the individuals using the slurs. The reported incidents took place between 2016 and the present. 


Tesla’s human resources department ignored Vaughn’s initial complaints. The electric vehicle maker eventually fired Vaughn. If Vaughn’s case is awarded class action status, up to 6,000 Black workers could join Vaughn’s suit.  


In addition to reporting foul language, the Black workers also claimed that they were assigned more physically demanding tasks and faced disciplinary action more frequently. 


Tesla has not responded to requests for comment from attorneys representing the workers.


The Vaughn lawsuit is not the first legal action of its kind against the electric vehicle maker. In 2022, California regulators sued Tesla for discrimination, alleging that CEO Elon Musk encouraged employees to be “thick-skinned” about racism. In a separate discrimination case, former Tesla employee Owen Diaz was awarded $3.2 million in damages earlier this year. 



Clean Energy Revolution’s Take


Although these racial discrimination cases certainly make for embarrassing headlines, it’s unlikely that they will damage Tesla very much. 


Earlier this year, Elon Musk moved Tesla’s engineering headquarters back to California less than two years after leaving California for Texas. This is in spite of California having some of the most employee-friendly laws of any US state. Workers in California have up to three years to file discrimination cases, while workers in Texas only have 180 days. 


Even in California, Tesla has won victories in discrimination lawsuits. In the Diaz case, Tesla was originally required to pay $137 million in damages. Tesla appealed the ruling, claiming that the damages were excessive. A San Francisco federal jury agreed, and the payout was reduced to $3.2 million.


Stay tuned for more updates on the Vaughn lawsuit in the coming months.