Tesla is facing another lawsuit alleging racial harassment at one of its California plants. The suit was filed by Kaylen Barker, a Black lesbian woman and former employee at Tesla’s factory in Lathrop, California, where Barker inspected brakes. She says she was repeatedly harassed and then physically assaulted. Her reports to HR went unheeded, and she was ultimately terminated.
The lawsuit details a pattern of mistreatment culminating in physical assault. The harassment began after Barker got promoted, when a female coworker started muttering racial slurs at her. Barker reported the harassment to HR, which apparently took no action. Later, that same coworker threw a hot grinding tool at Barker while calling her a racial slur. The tool left bruises in Barker’s leg. Barker reported the incident to HR, and the coworker was initially fired but rehired a few weeks later.
Following the assault, HR started pressuring Barker to sign documents stating that she’d been insubordinate, then sending her home early without pay. She was ultimately terminated by the company in October 2021. To add insult to injury, her last five paychecks were withheld.
A Pattern of Racial Harassment and Discrimination
The lawsuit is one of a growing number involving racial harassment at Tesla’s manufacturing plants. A similar lawsuit resulted in a $137 million federal jury verdict against the company last October. Another former employee was awarded $1 million in arbitration last summer for racial harassment.
California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) – the state civil rights agency responsible for investigating and taking action against employers for discriminatory practices – has also filed suit against Tesla. The lawsuit alleges persistent racial discrimination and harassment at the company’s flagship Fremont factory
Together, these lawsuits paint a grim picture of Tesla manufacturing plants as hostile work environments where Black employees are subjected to racial harassment, assigned the most physically demanding jobs and silenced or fired when they attempt to speak up. It’s a disturbing legacy for a company whose brand is centered on being progressive and forward-thinking.