Tesla blasts California lawsuit charging ‘rampant racism’ at Fremont plant

Tesla Inc. blasted California’s lawsuit accusing the company of ignoring “rampant racism” in its factory, saying the state agency has “abandoned its founding purpose” to make sensational headlines.

Monday’s filing by the world’s largest electric-vehicle maker asks a judge to pause a lawsuit filed in February by the state’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing. The agency alleged that Tesla turned a blind eye to years of complaints about racial slurs on the assembly line at its plant in Fremont, Calif., where 20,000 people work.

“DFEH conducted a bare bones ‘investigation’ without interviewing key witnesses, requesting key documents, or ever stepping foot in the Fremont facility,” Tesla said in the filing in state court in Oakland.

The agency has been roiled by controversy of late. Its assistant chief counsel recently resigned to protest what she said was the abrupt firing of her boss by California Gov. Gavin Newsom. The lawyer accused Newsom of interfering with the agency’s discrimination lawsuit against Activision Blizzard Inc. — a claim Newsom’s office said is “categorically false.”

DFEH representatives didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The civil rights enforcement agency in recent years has filed high-profile complaints against companies including Walt Disney Co., Cisco Systems Inc. and Riot Games Inc.

Tesla faced a number of a lawsuits over its treatment of Black employees — including one that led to a $137 million jury verdict against the company — before the agency lodged its own complaint.

The automaker claims DFEH is exceeding its legal authority and “uses litigation as a bullying tactic and to advance its turf war” with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that spilled into public view in the Activision case.

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