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Tesla former employees talk about ‘ugly’ racism at the company

In a Tesla-focused piece, Los Angeles Times interviewed three former employees of the company, and their revelations on racism are ugly.

The story is part of a California Department of Fair Employment and Housing lawsuit against the Tesla Fremont factory.

Monica Chatman, one of the former employees, revealed that using the N-word to address Black workers was normal. In addition to this, she faced several unfair situations, like the fact that the only way she could keep her job was to work ‘mandatory’ 12-hour shifts for six or seven days a week. Another time, she was assigned to singlehandedly do the job of a four-person team or quit.

However, her main grouse remained the racial slurs, chicken jokes, racial discrimination in job assignments locations. She complained to her HR, and while the slurs and jokes stopped, she didn’t realise that she was on thin ice until she hit a sprinkler head that shut down an assembly line for 15 minutes. She was fired for it, something that other workers have done multiple times and still had their jobs.

The second employee interviewed was Kimberly Romby, and she also complained about the same 12-hour mandatory work shift. However, she faced other challenges like homophobic slurs when she revealed that she was a lesbian. In addition to this, she confirmed the normalised use of the N-word and discriminatory assignment locations.

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Romby said that the part of the factory where she and many other Black people worked was called the plantation or the slave ship. After she made formal complaints, she started getting badgered by supervisors, had an emotional breakdown, and she had to quit.

The third person that the LA Times spoke to was an Army veteran, Nigel Jones. Again, he confirmed that he heard white supervisors use the N-word at Black employees, but his colleagues advised him against going to HR. However, when he felt that he was cut out of meetings because of his skin colour, he tried getting important details from his boss, this didn’t work out.

“… we’d miss communications. He wouldn’t be telling me things I needed to know. It seemed like he was trying to make me look bad, like we weren’t doing anything,” Jones said.

Also, besides the regular use of the N-word, he said that the supervisor also called him and two Black colleagues monkeys. Motivated by his mom, Nigel reported the issues to HR, and after two meetings, he was fired on the third one.

Tesla has denied the allegations in the article, but it has a poor track record regarding racial discrimination suits. In just two racism cases, the court has directed Tesla to pay about $138 million in damages.

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Onwuasoanya Obinna

A reader of books and stringer of words. Passionate about Science and Tech. When not writing or reading he is surfing the web and Tweeting.