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Tesla to Face Nearly 6,000 Black Workers in Factory Racism Lawsuit

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Almost 6,000 Black workers from Tesla Inc.’s California factory can sue the car maker collectively over claims that it failed to protect them from racism, under a tentative ruling by a California judge.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Noël Wise said Wednesday the workers should be allowed to proceed with class action status because Tesla’s alleged “pattern or practice” of failing to take reasonable steps to prevent discrimination was a common issue for all the Black workers at the Fremont plant.

The judge gave Tesla until Thursday to contest her ruling and scheduled a hearing for Friday for the parties to argue their positions.

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The lawsuit was filed in 2017 by Tesla worker Marcus Vaughn, who claimed that the factory production floor was a “hotbed of racist behavior.” According to the complaint, co-workers and supervisors routinely used racial slurs, and employee complaints to human resources went largely unanswered.

Tesla initially responded to Vaughn’s suit with a blog post titled “Hotbed of Misinformation,” denying wrongdoing and saying the company had fired three people after probing alleged incidents.

Tesla representatives didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday’s ruling.

The judge said she would split the trial into two phases, if the case goes to trial. During the first, the jury would decide whether Tesla failed to do enough to prevent discrimination and harassment. If the jurors find Tesla liable, then in a second phase the plaintiffs would pursue their claims for damages.

Elon Musk’s electric vehicle maker has repeatedly been hit with damages in racism suits by individual workers and is also fighting claims by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and California’s civil rights agency.

The case is Vaughn v. Tesla, Inc., RG17882082, California Superior Court, Alameda County.

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