Diversity, equity, and inclusion (D,E&I) are huge areas of investment for organizations, but Tesla is currently struggling. The electric car manufacturer, which frequently makes headlines because of the personality and profile of CEO Elon Musk, was ordered to pay Black ex-employee Melvin Berry $1 million in August of 2021 because of the abuse he suffered.
There is now a new case that will see the company face the courts for its treatment of Black workers. Kaylen Barker, a Black gay woman who worked at Tesla between February and October 2021, has filed a suit against Tesla and detailed the racist abuse she was allegedly subject to at the company.
In a statement from Barker, given to Insider by her attorney, she said: “I was violated physically, mentally, and emotionally because I am an African American lesbian.”
Baker is being represented by J. Bernard Alexander, III. Alexander previously represented former Tesla employee Owen Diaz. With the representation of Alexander, Diaz managed to sue the company in October 2021 for racial harassment.
Workman wrote: “The Tesla of 2015 and 2016 (when Mr. Diaz worked in the Fremont factory) is not the same as the Tesla of today.”
However, Barker’s accusations indicate that issues may have still been prevalent at the time of Workman’s statement.
Allegations against Tesla
Barker claims that a co-worker, listed as Joanne in the suit, began making racist remarks after Barker was promoted.
As a result, Barker flagged these issues to HR, but she was not informed that any action had been taken. The situation worsened in September 2021, when Barker asked Joanne to move away from a machine because of safety reasons. Joanne reportedly responded by using further racist language and throwing a hot grinding tool at her. The tool hit Barker’s thigh.
On the back of this incident, Joanne was fired. However, it has been alleged that two weeks later Tesla rehired Joanne and HR informed Barker that she was under investigation. Barker was then said to be called up to meet Tesla HR teams on a “near-daily basis”. The HR teams are then said to have demanded that she sign a document that said she had been “insubordinate”.
When Barker was terminated on October 29, the lawsuit claims that Tesla held back five of her paychecks.
Undoubtedly, repeated accusations of racial harassment will damage the image of Tesla, and the company needs to take action to address the racism that has occurred.
UNLEASH has reached out to Tesla for comment, but the company has yet to respond.