The Traumatic Experience of Working for Tesla Revealed
Tesla is known for its groundbreaking electric vehicles and solar panels, but it is also known for its intense work culture. In fact, Elon Musk himself has praised the company’s success to the point of excruciating effort and 100-hour work weeks. However, new interviews with Tesla employees reveal that working for Musk is just as traumatic as it sounds.
Melvin Berry And Tesla Harassment
According to the Verge’s podcast “Land of the Giants: The Tesla Shock Wave,” ex-Tesla employee Melvin Berry shared his story of working for the EV company between 2015 and 2016. Berry, who is Black, filed a discrimination suit against Tesla, claiming that supervisors at the California plant called him a racial slur, and the company did not intervene.
Here is what Melvin Berry said happened in the Tesla factory:
Subtle little remarks whether it be ‘you are not working fast enough, you guys are not working hard enough or you boys need to hurry up.’
My supervisor called me the N word right in front of coworkers. When you hear it, I had to make sure I heard what I heard. I asked him again ‘what did you say?’ And he said it. (Note, the person who said it was white).
So my buddy who was working the battery on the opposite side. He read the supervisor’s mouth and he looked at me.
He seen my facial expression and said ‘did I hear him just call you that?’
Berry took the case to Tesla HR and they refused to help. He then starting documenting everything. Berry was awarded nearly $1 million following an arbitration proceeding.
Berry’s case is not unique. Multiple outlets reported that Black employees at the Tesla plant where Berry worked had filed several years of complaints accusing the company of ignoring the regular use of racial slurs and delaying cleaning graffiti that included swastikas and other hate symbols in common spaces. Tesla denied these accusations, but the company’s traumatic work culture has been previously exposed.
Here were some of the quotes from employees in the podcast::
“What I saw was, you know, a lot of people sleeping on the floor, people working 10-12 hours a day, six to seven days a week,” one anonymous employee said.
A second said that being fired could be as easy as catching Musk on a bad day.
“Let’s say you drop something. Let’s say you do something wrong. You’re getting fired on the spot ’cause Elon’s coming out of a room, looking dead at you, and firing you,” he said.
In 2018, Joshua Brown’s Tesla Model S crashed into a tractor-trailer, and Brown was killed. The National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation revealed that Tesla’s Autopilot system was partially responsible for the crash. However, the investigation also revealed that Tesla’s work culture put immense pressure on employees to develop and launch new technologies quickly, without proper testing or safety precautions.
It goes on and on. 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 has been reporting on this for months, including BLACK WORKERS SUE TESLA, ALLEGING WIDESPREAD RACISM:
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.
Furthermore, former employees have reported that Tesla’s rigorous work culture promotes a toxic environment. The company’s five-minute warning system, which notifies employees to return to their respective teams, is said to cause immense stress. The company also ranks employees based on their performance, creating a hostile work environment in which employees compete against each other, rather than collaborate.
What is Land of the Giants?
In the latest season of Land of the Giants: The Tesla Shock Wave, reporters Tamara Warren and Patrick George investigate the good, the bad and the ugly with Tesla as it disrupted the auto industry and sparked the EV revolution. The episodes are very well done and include the following topics thus far:
- The Electric Car Goes Mainstream
- How Tesla Became the Elon Musk Co.
- Tesla vs. The Competition
- The Human Cost of Ultra Hardcore
Patrick George has not shied away from telling it like it is at the EV leader. The fact that Musk actually uses the phrase “ultra hardcore” makes him sound like a cult leader who was a complete nerd trying to bro-out with the boys.
Tesla’s innovative technology and its founder, Elon Musk, have become the topic of fascination for many people. However, this fascination should not blind us to the company’s abusive work culture. Whether it is ignoring racial slurs, promoting unsafe work practices, or creating a toxic work environment, Tesla must address its issues so that it can continue to innovate while also respecting its employees. As consumers, we should ask ourselves if we want to support a company that sacrifices its employees’ well-being for the sake of innovation. The treatment of workers should be a critical factor in our decision-making process when choosing which companies to support.