A former contractor worker at Tesla’s factory is suing the automaker and the staffing agency that hired him in a wrongful termination that alleges he was fired after complaining to management about anti-gay harassment.
The case was filed in Alameda County Superior Court. Tesla and West Valley Staffing Group are listed as defendants in the lawsuit. It was first reported on Thursday by The Guardian.
The former Tesla assembly line worker Jorge Ferro, who is gay, originally filed a complaint against Tesla in September 2016 with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. In the lawsuit, which was first filed in May 2017, Ferro alleges that he was taunted for being gay, including by the man responsible for training him. He also says was punished by management for complaining about the abuse.
The lawsuit describes several incidents in which the trainer harassed Ferro for his sexual orientation, at one point allegedly saying he “needed to watch his back.” In another incident, same employee allegedly threatened Ferro to be careful and that “something might happen to his car.”
Tesla responded to Fortune with this statement:
“Media reporting on claims of discrimination at Tesla should bear a few things in mind: First, as one of the most highly reported-on companies in the world, anyone who brings claims against Tesla is all but assured that they will garner significant media coverage. Second, in the history of Tesla, there has never been a single proven case of discrimination against the company. Not one. This fact is conveniently never mentioned in any reporting. Third, as we have said repeatedly, even though we are a company of 33,000 employees, including more than 10,000 in the Fremont factory alone, and it is not humanly possible to stop all bad conduct, we care deeply about these issues and take them extremely seriously. If there is ever a case where Tesla is at fault, we will take responsibility.
On the other hand, Tesla will always fight back against unmeritorious claims. In this case, neither of the two people at the center of the claim, Mr. Ferro and the person who he alleges to have mistreated him, actually worked for Tesla. Both worked for a third-party. Nevertheless, Tesla still stepped in to try to keep these individuals apart from one another and to ensure a good working environment. Regardless of these facts, every lawyer knows that if they name Tesla as a defendant in their lawsuit, it maximizes the chances of generating publicity for their case. They abuse our name, because they know it is catnip for journalists. Tesla takes any and every form of discrimination or harassment extremely seriously. There is no company on Earth with a better track record than Tesla, as they would have to have fewer than zero cases where an independent judge or jury has found a genuine case of discrimination. This is physically impossible.”
The lawsuit is the latest filed against the Tesla alleging discrimination or harassment. Earlier this month, three African-American workers filed a lawsuit claiming they experienced discrimination and harassment because of their race while they were employed at Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California. In March, Tesla employee DeWitt Lambert filed a lawsuit alleging he was physically threatened and subjected to racial harassment and discrimination on the job. Lambert, who is black, accused Tesla of failing to take action after he was “subjected to racial slurs and lewd behavior” by colleagues while he worked on the assembly line at the same factory.
And then there’s the lawsuit filed in February by a then-Tesla engineer AJ Vandermeyden, who accused the company of ignoring her claims of “unwelcome and pervasive harassment,” unequal pay, and discrimination. She was fired in June.