Law Street Media

Tesla Crosses Swords with Calif. Discrimination Agency Once Again in Factory Worker Discrimination Action

Indianapolis - Circa April 2017: Tesla Service Center. Tesla designs and manufactures the Model S electric sedan IV

Two filings this week from Tesla Inc. in the suit filed against it by the California Civil Rights Department (CRD) answered the suit with myriad affirmative defenses and cross-complained. As to the latter, Tesla said that the CRD adopted and applied rules which violate the California Administrative Procedure Act (APA) largely because the agency failed to apprise Tesla of its alleged discrimination-related violations.

The suit dates to February when the CRD accused Tesla of blatantly discriminating against African American/Black factory workers. As previously reported, the filing was replete with examples of specific conduct like pay discrepancies, failure to promote, and the use of racial slurs and verbal abuse. 

Tesla first moved to pause the case citing deficiencies with the CRD’s procedure. After the Alameda County Superior Court declined, Tesla moved to dismiss the suit on multiple grounds and the California agency opposed.

In this week’s answer, the electric vehicle maker responded to the complaint with more than two dozen affirmative defenses including failure to state a claim, failure to follow procedure, lack of jurisdiction, and equitable defenses like estoppel and laches.

Its counterclaim noted that the Fremont, Calif. factory at the heart of the case is the last remaining automobile manufacturing facility in the state, and that Tesla “is proud to provide high-paying jobs that equip Californians with valuable skills and training, as well as an opportunity to share in the ownership of the company through stock incentives at all levels.”

However, Tesla claimed it was the victim, and not the only one, of regulatory misconduct, a similar line of argument it raised in its motion to stay the case. The cross-complaint cited inadequate notice of the discrimination charges and lack of a fair, impartial, and complete investigation.

Calling the agency’s pre-suite conduct “entirely inimical to the statutory constraints and obligations imposed on CRD by the FEHA,” the filing said that the CRD abused its discretion, acted beyond the scope of its statutory power, and failed to comply with the law in its pursuit of Tesla.

The plaintiff is represented by counsel with the CRD and Tesla by Holland & Knight LLP and Reed Smith LLP.

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