Tesla Sued for Racial Discrimination and Harassment

Elon Musk Tesla Battery (Kevork Djansezian / Getty)
Kevork Djansezian / Getty

A former Tesla employee has filed a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination and sexual harassment. Tesla blames the employee for being a potentially violent troublemaker.

DeWitt Lambert, a black, 44-year-old electrician, claims he moved to California to obtain a “dream job” on Tesla’s assembly line in Fremont,

In the lawsuit, filed by the California Civil Rights Law Group, Lambert states that he packed up his family, including four children, and moved from Alabama to the Bay Area in 2012 to pursue his dream of applying his skills as an electrician to building the world’s most advanced cars. He claims that he had never been happier than when he began working at Tesla in 2015.

But Mr. Lambert now claims that on a continuous basis from the summer of 2015 through the fall of 2016, he was subjected by assembly-line supervisors and co-workers to a torrent of racial epithets; talk about the size of his penis, and an employee shoving a drill gun into his rear end. He says that despite his mistreatment, he was still expected to work 12-hour shifts for 6-days per week.

Lambert’s lawyer posted a devastating 1-minute video supposedly shot without Lambert’s permission on his iPhone by a co-worker on the Tesla line in October 2015. According to a PR Newswire video transcription, the video shows a co-worker saying the n-word repeatedly.

The California Civil Rights Law Group’s suit lays out a timeline of the alleged harassment, and Tesla’s failure to intervene to address Lambert’s workplace concerns:

June 26, 2015: Dewitt Lambert hired as Tesla ‘Production Associate;

June 26, 2015 – April 2016: Mr. Lambert works with the harassers;

Fall 2015: Mr. Lambert complains to his Supervisor about constantly being called by the “N” word;

Winter 2015: Mr. Lambert again complains to his Supervisor about being called the “N” word, and that the harassers are threatening to get him fired. Mr. Lambert then reports the hostile environment to Tesla’s Human Relations Department, who did not start an investigation;

Late Winter 2015: Continued filing complaints to HR about the harassment and “N” word. Mr. Lambert applies for numerous position changes to try to get away from the harassers. Mr. Lambert is denied promotions, but his harassers are promoted despite his complaints;

Early Spring 2016: One of Lambert’s harasser promoted again;

April 2016: Mr. Lambert is finally transferred to another line;

June 2016: Tesla HR Department views racist videos, but does nothing to harassers and continues to allow a hostile workplace;

July 2016: Mr. Lambert is medically diagnosed as developing lower back pain from repetitive movements and he is given a diagnosis requiring work limitations. But his Tesla Supervisors makes no workplace accommodation and requires he work 12-hour shifts;

Fall 2016: Mr. Lambert’s Supervisor gives him a backless crate to sit on as an accommodation. With Mr. Lambert still in pain, his Supervisor sends him home on leave.

November 2016: Tesla begins investigating Mr. Lambert as a troublemaker.

Tesla told TechCrunch that Lambert’s claims have no merit and that it was he who had threatened other employees with violence. Tesla also states that it promoted Lambert 12 months ago and he was known to socialize outside of work with the group of employees and supervisors that he now contends harassed him.

Tesla affirmatively stated that “Dewitt’s version of the events is not supported by the facts,” and that the company “will continue to take action as necessary, including parting ways with anyone whose behavior prevents Tesla from being a great place to work.”



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