Former Tesla Employees Describe Hostile Workplace at Buffalo Factory

Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveils the new Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010. The new Tesla factory is the former NUMMI plant. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

Former Tesla workers at Elon Musk’s Buffalo factory have described a “hostile workplace” including the use of racial slurs, harassment, and discrimination.

WIVB4 reports that a black former employee at the Tesla production plant in Buffalo, New York, claims that racial tensions at the factory grew to such a high degree that the lunchroom and an assembly line naturally segregated. He describes the Buffalo factory as a “very racist place.”

Last year, a “racially charged” message was reportedly found in a bathroom last year which resulted in Tesla managers putting together a “diversity meeting” which was reportedly unhelpful to the situation. Employees also claim that white workers were given preference for certain jobs. One black employee alleges that they applied for a promotion only to learn that they lost the job to a white female employee. Sometime later, a new black employee was hired to a similar position but on the night-shift and paid $6 less an hour.

Six black and Hispanic former workers at the Tesla plant in Buffalo filed discrimination complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the state Division of Human Rights following their employment at the factory. The employees allege that white employees were heard repeatedly using racial slurs and were promoted ahead of more qualified black and Hispanic workers.

Assemblyman Sean Ryan (D) who read the complaints, said they describe an “out-of-control workforce where racism and discrimination appears to be unfettered.” Some former employees allege that the firm used global layoffs in January as an excuse to fire black and Hispanic employees who filed complaints about racism and hostility. Tesla did fire all six employees who complained or were mentioned in complaints.

Of the 57 employees laid off in January, approximately 80 percent were minorities according to the EEOC complaints. This reportedly caught the interest of state authorities and the Attorney General’s Office has a “pending investigation” of the work environment at the Tesla plant according to WIVB4.

One black female former worker told WIBV4: “I don’t like to pull the race card, if you will. I didn’t want to jump right to race, but all in all, I feel like that’s absolutely what it was.” One former worker, a Hispanic man, alleged that he was regularly referred to as “the lazy Puerto Rican” or “the Puerto Rican” by white co-workers.

“During my employment, I frequently heard racial epithets and slurs,” the former worker wrote in the complaint. “Whenever I brought concerns about racist comments to my supervisor, it appeared he would consult with the white co-workers but never with any of the affected black co-workers.”

Another African-American worker claimed in his EEOC complaint that racist comments were made regularly during his time at the factory: “For instance, I recall myself and other black co-workers complaining about a white, female co-worker who used the n-word frequently being moved to a different division but ultimately promoted in my division to a maintenance technician,” he stated.

Former workers allege that someone wrote “get rid of all the [n-word]s and Jews” on a poster in the factory bathrooms. Management didn’t tell anyone what was written on the poster but employees had already seen it and Human Resources was allegedly “dismissive about it.” Management organized what was described as a “vague anti-discrimination meeting” and there was no follow-up with employees.

One former worker claimed that although the racist note was upsetting “it did not surprise me because of my observations of how minority workers were treated at the factory.” A former worker stated in a complaint: “I, like other workers of color, felt that the meeting about the racist note was ineffective and barely scratched the surface about the racism at the plant,” a former worker said in the complaint.

Tesla’s Buffalo plant has faced a storm of criticism, including allegations that production activity at the plant is “fabricated for show.” The state of New York has taken nearly a $1 billion write down on its investment in the Tesla facility.

Read more at WIBV4 here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or email him at lnolan@breitbart.com

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