Former Tesla employee suing company over firing, racial discrimination

A former Tesla construction manager has filed a lawsuit against the electric car company, alleging he was fired in retaliation for reporting a multitude of safety violations, shoddy oversight, and racial discrimination at Tesla’s factories.

The lawsuit, filed by former employee Marc Cage in Alameda County court on Friday, marks the latest in a string of lawsuits filed by individual employees or government regulators against Tesla, revolving around allegations of racial or sexual harassment and discrimination.

In his lawsuit, Cage, who is African American, alleges that he “witnessed and reported countless violations to dozens of Tesla personnel in various departments, including to the highest levels of the company” during his roughly two years working for Tesla, according to a statement from his attorneys issued Tuesday.

Rather than address the issues he brought to the fore, the company fired him, the lawsuit alleges.

Cage reported violations to several superiors, including a welding violation that could have led to “catastrophic, fatal explosions” at the company’s battery factory in Nevada, according to the lawsuit.

After making some of these reports, Cage was “explicitly told that raising an issue with Tesla’s construction practices, or otherwise slowing production, was out of the question, as that would interfere with the agendas of CEO Elon Musk and Jerome Guillen, president of automotive” at Tesla, the lawsuit said.

Cage “was trained to uphold the highest level of construction compliance,” but “Tesla ignored his reports, then fired him” in retaliation, Cage’s attorney, Tamarah Prevost said in a statement.

“Terminating Mr. Cage also perpetuates the company’s troubling pattern of prioritizing speed of production over employee safety,” Prevost said.

The lawsuit also alleges that Cage faced racial discrimination while working for Tesla.

“Virtually every restroom in Tesla’s Fremont facility contained writings or carvings of racist symbols and slurs, including swastikas and prominent displays of the n-word,” the lawsuit said, alleging that Tesla did nothing to address the issues.

“Mr. Cage also experienced what no employee should ever have to endure: a blatantly racist workplace,” Prevost said.

Cage said he was called racist names routinely, including “boy” by a subcontractor. One of Cage’s managers referred to some of Cage’s African American colleagues as Cage’s “brothers,” but “never referred to anyone else of a different race as his brother, the lawsuit said.

“The use of this term was racially motivated and demeaning,” the lawsuit said.

“Tesla’s failure to remedy the outrageous treatment that (Cage) and other African American and Black employees experienced is unjustifiable,” Prevost said.

Cage’s lawsuit comes a little over a week after California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing sued the company, accusing it of running what amounts to a “racially segregated workplace” at the Fremont factory.

“Black workers are subjected to racial slurs and discriminated against in job assignments, discipline, pay, and promotion, creating a hostile work environment,” Kevin Kish, the department’s director said in a statement.

Tesla, in its own statement preceding the state’s, said the state’s case “appears focused on alleged misconduct by production associates at the Fremont factory that took place between 2015 and 2019,

“Tesla strongly opposes all forms of discrimination and harassment and has a dedicated Employee Relations team that responds to and investigates all complaints, the company statement said.

Tesla also said the lawsuit is “unfair and counterproductive.”

“Attacking a company like Tesla that has done so much good for California should not be the overriding aim of a state agency with prosecutorial authority. The interests of workers and fundamental fairness must come first,” Tesla said.

Tesla did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment.

The company also was sued earlier this month by Kaylen Barker, an African American worker at a Tesla parts factory in Lathrop, who alleges that a white co-worker called her a racial slur and assaulted her.

In November, Tesla factory worker Jessica Barraza alleged in a lawsuit that she and other women workers at the Fremont plant were subjected to “a pervasive culture of sexual harassment” that included “frequent groping on the factory floor.”

In October, a San Francisco federal court jury awarded a Black former worker at the Fremont factory, Owen Diaz, almost $137 million — believed to be one of the largest awards in U.S. history for a single plaintiff in a race-discrimination case in which he claimed he faced “daily racist epithets.”

Tesla is seeking a new trial in that case, and said in its annual report it would appeal the award “if necessary.”

Staff writer Ethan Baron contributed to this report.