Exclusive: A factory worker says he was harassed for being gay. A father and son say they faced daily racial epithets. Each claims that Tesla failed to stop it
Sam Levin in San Francisco
Thursday 19 October 2017
Soon after he started working on the assembly line at Tesla, Jorge Ferro said he was taunted for being gay and threatened with violence. “Watch your back,” a supervisor warned after mocking his clothes for being “gay tight”, Ferro said.
The harassment didn’t stop after he reported it to a manager, and days after he made a second complaint, Ferro was punished, according to his account. An HR representative took away Ferro’s badge, claiming that he had an “injury” that prevented him from working and saying there’s “no place for handicapped people at Tesla”, he alleged.
Tesla repeatedly failed to stop the anti-gay harassment and fired Ferro in retaliation for seeking protection, according to a wrongful termination lawsuit, the latest discrimination scandal to roil Elon Musk’s electric car company.
“It’s revolting to me,” said Chris Dolan, Ferro’s attorney. “This is classic ‘blame the victim’.”
Tesla has defended itself against charges of discrimination: “There is no company on earth with a better track record than Tesla,” it said in a statement to the Guardian.
Ferro has come forward at a time when Tesla and companies across Silicon Valley are facing widespread scrutiny over harassment, discrimination and sexual misconduct. A sexual harassment scandal at Uber launched an avalanche of complaints from women in the male-dominated industry about abuse, unwanted advances, assault and pay disparities.
Tesla – world-famous for its battery-powered vehicles and Musk’s vision of self-driving technology – has also faced accusations of sexual harassment and underpaying women. A female engineer who filed a lawsuit and spoke to the Guardian about her experiences was soon after fired, drawing allegations of “clear retaliation”. Tesla has denied the claims.
In addition to Ferro’s complaint, first reported by the Guardian, three black men who worked at Tesla have also filed a recent lawsuit alleging racist abuse and harassment, including attacks using the N-word and statements like “Go back to Africa”.
Tesla did not address specific allegations, but in a series of statements called the claims “unmeritorious” and argued that it was was not responsible since the employees are contractors.