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Tesla Fails to Pull the Plug on Antigay and Racial Harassment, Suits Claim


Two recent lawsuits say the company failed to stop the discriminatory behavior and retaliated against employees who reported it.

Electric car manufacturer Tesla is facing lawsuits contending the company failed to stop antigay and racial harassment.

Jorge Ferro, an assembly line worker at the Tesla plant in Fremont, Calif., has filed a wrongful-termination suit, claiming "he was taunted for being gay and threatened with violence," The Guardian reports. His supervisor called his clothes "gay tight" and told him, "Watch your back." He reported the harassment to a manager twice, after which a human resources representative took away his company ID, told him he had an "injury" preventing him from working and that there's "no place for handicapped people at Tesla."

The "injury," according to Ferro's lawyer, was a scar on his wrist from a 16-year-old injury that had no effect on his job duties, and in any case it would be illegal to fire him for a perceived disability. "This was just a BS reason to kick him out of the workplace," the lawyer, Chris Dolan, told The Guardian..

In a statement to the paper, Ferro said, "I knew that I had to stand up to make sure this did not happen to anyone else."

Tesla officials contended the company does not discriminate, telling The Guardian, "There is no company on earth with a better track record than Tesla, as they would have to have fewer than zero cases where an independent judge or jury has found a genuine case of discrimination."

In another suit, Owen Diaz and his son Demetric, both black men, said they endured racist taunts, including the n word, and threats while working at Tesla. Demetric was dismissed after complaining, ostensibly for using his phone while on the assembly line, and his father quit after being threatened with demotion.

"It was disrespectful and humiliating," Owen Diaz told The Guardian. "It was just a feeling that no person should ever have to go through." Both he and his son had good performance records, he said. They were joined in the suit by a third employee.

Their attorney, Larry Organ, said Tesla founder Elon Musk should be able to provide a discrimination-free work environment. "He's a brilliant visionary," Organ told The Guardian. "You think that if he put his mind to this issue, it would be solved."

A Tesla spokesman said the company was not aware of the Diaz complaints until the suit was filed and questioned the lawyer's motivations, saying the suit was "timed to coincide with a carefully planned media blitz in an attempt to create a disingenuous narrative that was at odds with the facts" and that the "timing of these new claims and the manner in which they are being publicized is notable, particularly coming from the same attorney" who filed another racial discrimination suit earlier this year."

Organ, however, told The Guardian the plaintiffs had sought him out, not the other way around, and said of Tesla, "They want to frame this as if it's the greedy lawyer. Actually, what it's really about is the racist conduct."

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