A former employee at Tesla’s Fremont factory filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the electric carmaker, alleging he was fired in retaliation after seeking protection from anti-gay harassment, The Guardian reported today.
The defendant, an assembly line worker named Jorge Ferro, claims he was taunted for being gay and threatened with violence. “Watch your back,” one supervisor told him after mocking his “gay tight” clothing, the paper said. After complaining to an HR representative, Ferro was repeatedly moved to different assembly lines, but the harassment didn’t stop.
Ultimately, HR told him there was “no place for handicapped people at Tesla” after noticing an old scar on his wrist, according to The Guardian. He was sent home, and eventually terminated.
In a strongly worded statement to the paper, Tesla denied the allegations and defended itself against the charges. “There is no company on earth with a better track record than Tesla,” a spokesperson said.
The lawsuit is the latest to paint an unflattering picture of life at the popular carmaker. Earlier this week, three former African-American employees sued Tesla, claiming they’d suffered constant, often daily racial discrimination and harassment, and that the company did little to nothing to stop the behavior.
In both cases, Tesla argued the defendants were actually employed by third-party contractors. To be sure, Tesla’s full-time employees have to sign arbitration agreements that force them to settle harassment claims privately. Even so, the company says it attempted to separate Ferro from his alleged harasser. Ferro’s lawyer told The Guardian Tesla erred by moving the defendant after he complained. “It’s perceived by many to be retaliatory,” said Chris Dolan, Ferro’s attorney. “It sends a message to other employees that if you complain, you’re the one who’s going to have your job changed. In essence, you’re penalizing the party who’s making the complaint.”
In a statement, Tesla’s spokesperson also attacked the media for reporting on lawsuits against the company, as well as the lawyers for filing the complaints:
“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.”
Tesla is still in the middle of lawsuit from a former employee who alleged that women experienced “unwanted and pervasive harassment.” And just last week, the company fired hundreds of workers during a time CEO Elon Musk has described as “production hell” as it attempts to ramp up production of the Model 3.