BUFFALO, N.Y. — At the Tesla factory in Fremont, California, there are allegations employees and supervisors routinely used racial slurs and created a hostile work environment for African Americans.
"This is very concerning news that we're hearing out of California," State Senator Tim Kennedy, D-South Buffalo, said.
In a complaint filed Monday, the plaintiff said he reported the behavior but the company took no action.
"Corporations, large and small, that have any sort of discrimination or harassment in the workplace, need to be held accountable and we need to call them out and we need to make sure that justice is served," Kennedy said.
Telsa, in a statement provided early Wednesday, disputes claims it didn't respond to the complaints.
"After a thorough investigation, immediate action was taken, which included terminating the employment of three of the individuals," the company says. "Tesla is absolutely against any form of discrimination, harassment, or unfair treatment of any kind. When we hear complaints, we take them very seriously, investigate thoroughly and, if proven to be true, take immediate action."
The company adds that there are "a number of other false statements in the class action lawsuit alleging a so-called 'hotbed of discrimination.'"
Court documents reference four other employees who have filed lawsuits against Tesla this year and the plaintiff wants to move forward with a class action suit. Meanwhile in Western New York, the company is in the middle of hiring employees for its latest big factory.
"We know the statistics of Buffalo being one of the most segregated cities in the United States for our size. We know those statistics and so of course we are a lot more cognizant," said Buffalo Common Council President Darius Pridgen.
State and local leaders noted there's been an active effort to train and recruit potential employees from the city's predominantly African American east side. Pridgen said it's also incumbent on them to make sure standard operating procedure is not—as the complaint puts it—"pre-Civil Rights era race discrimination."
"When you are participating in a program that the government is subsidizing heavily, we want to make sure that those allegations are not the reality here in Buffalo and Western New York," he said.
Pridgen said discriminatory practices are inexcusable regardless of size or subsidies. While it's not legal for the state to set minority hiring quotas, Kennedy said there are laws in place to prevent discrimination both in hiring and in the workplace.
"It's something that we're following closely, we're going to be looking at and analyzing carefully to make sure that they are the equal opportunity employer that we expect them to be," he said.
Neither Kennedy nor Pridgen have soured on the project which promises to create several thousand jobs.
"At this point, I'm not soured, but I am paying attention," Pridgen said.