Tesla urges dismissal of California bias lawsuit

Aug 24 (Reuters) – Attorneys for Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) will urge a California judge on Wednesday to file a lawsuit by the state’s civil rights office accusing the electric car manufacturer of widespread racial discrimination in an assembly plant.

Judge Evelio Grillo of the California Superior Court in Oakland will hold a hearing on Tesla’s bid to dismiss the lawsuit by the State Department of Civil Rights (DCR). Tesla, which is facing a series of other employee discrimination lawsuits, says the case is politically motivated.

In a complaint filed in February, the DCR said Tesla’s flagship factory in Fremont, California, was a racially segregated workplace where black workers were harassed and discriminated against in terms of job assignment, discipline and salary. read more

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Tesla, which has denied wrongdoing, and his lawyers did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday. Nor the DCR, which until last month was called the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

Austin, Texas-based Tesla is facing a series of race and gender discrimination cases, most of which involve its Fremont plant.

A state judge in April reduced a jury verdict for a black worker who alleged racial harassment from $137 million to $15 million. The plaintiff rejected the reduced award and opted for a new trial, scheduled for March 2023. read more

In its motion to dismiss the DCR’s case, Tesla says the agency has violated its obligations under state law by filing the lawsuit without first notifying the company of all claims or giving it an opportunity to to arrange.

The agency replied that before filing a lawsuit, it had followed all of its internal procedures, including giving Tesla the option to mediate.

Tesla filed a complaint in June with another government agency, the California Office of Administrative Law, alleging that the DCR’s alleged errors are widespread and that the procedures adopted by the agency are illegal. The OAL declined to review Tesla’s petition earlier this month without giving a reason. read more

There is little precedent for challenging the powers of anti-discrimination agencies that have broad powers to sue employers.

In the 2015 Mach Mining v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission case involving the agency that enforces federal anti-bias laws, the U.S. Supreme Court said courts cannot delve into the details of how the agency behaves before to file a lawsuit.

The California law, which is similar to federal law enforced by the EEOC, says the DCR “will attempt” to settle bias claims through “conference, mediation and persuasion” before prosecuting, but does not strict requirements for the agency to follow.

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Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York, editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Nick Zieminski

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Daniel Wiessner

Thomson Reuters

Dan Wiessner (@danwiessner) reports on labor and employment law and immigration law, including litigation and policy making. He can be reached at [email protected]

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