Tesla, Inc. Faces Racial Discrimination Suit Plus Retaliation Allegations

A 44-year old African American man out of Oakland, California, DeWitt Lambert, claims he experienced harassment and discrimination while he was employed as an assembly line worker in a Tesla factory in Fremont, California. The original suit was based on racial discrimination as well as a long list of claims of California state labor law violations, but more recently, the plaintiff added an additional charge to the allegations: retaliation.

Lambert claims that management at Tesla ignored his complaints while allowing co-workers to taunt him at work with the “N-word” as well as other obvious racial slurs. Lambert also alleges that Tesla put him on administrative leave in March of 2017. This occurred right after the media published news that he filed a lawsuit.

In addition to the original problem, Lambert’s attorney has noted that Tesla is not providing him with sufficient payment for en employee placed on administrative leave. This after they announced publicly that they were placing on such. Lambert’s attorney noted that he is actually only receiving approximately ¼ of the amount he was receiving prior to filing the California lawsuit and being placed on administrative leave by the company. Typically, an employee on administrative leave receives the same pay that they received while on the job. This drastic “pay cut” led to the additional charge of retaliation.

An electrician by trade, Lambert moved to California in 2012 from his previous home in Alabama. When he landed the job at Tesla’s Fremont, California plant in April 2016, it was his dream job. He worked on the Tesla S model. According to court documents, harassing behavior became routine almost immediately. The harassment came from four male colleagues, all in their 20s. The harassing behavior included: filling Lambert’s pockets with nuts and screws, repeatedly using the “N-word,” inappropriate comments about Lambert’s penis, repeated theft of his phone with video messages left behind upon return, threats to his family, and even a physical assault during which one of the men placed a drill gun in Lambert’s buttocks while the other men watched.

A transcript of a recording made in October 2015 of the harassing behavior was included in the state of claim. The recording was made on Lambert’s iPhone and the following was pulled from the recording, “Nigger, we take your ass home, nigger. Shred you up in pieces, nigger. Cut you up, nigger. Send your ass so everyone in your family so everybody can have a piece of you, nigger. Straight up, nigger. We get down like that, nigger.”

Lambert went on record in a press release published in March of 2017 saying that when he started work at Tesla he was the “happiest” he had ever been. This feeling was followed by experiencing discrimination worse than any he had been exposed to while growing up in Alabama. He stated that the behavior he experienced on the job left him scared for his safety when it was time to leave the plant and head home. He requested help from management at the Tesla plant, but none was offered.

If you fear workplace retaliation or if you are experiencing a negative workplace environment, harassment or discrimination in the workplace, please get in touch with an experienced California employment law attorney at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.