Tesla faces new race bias claims while a separate trial wraps up

By Daniel Wiessner

(Reuters) – Tesla Inc has been sued by a Black former general manager who says he was fired for pushing back against comments by his white supervisor that he claims were racist, the latest in a series of race bias cases against the world’s most valuable automaker.

John Goode, who oversaw a Tesla service center near Atlanta, filed a lawsuit in San Francisco federal court on Thursday claiming a regional manager blocked him from consideration for a promotion before having him fired on false pretenses on March 3.

A Tesla representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday. The electric-vehicle maker in other cases has said it does not tolerate discrimination and takes action when workers complain.

The lawsuit comes as a trial in a racial harassment lawsuit by a Black former elevator operator at Tesla’s Fremont, California, factory is scheduled to wrap up on Friday.

The plaintiff in that case, Owen Diaz, was awarded $137 million by a jury in 2021 and opted for a new trial on damages after a judge slashed the payout to $15 million. The judge said Diaz had worked at the plant for only nine months and that he did not allege any physical injury or illness.

In the new lawsuit, Goode claims that over the course of 2022 the white regional manager made a series of offensive comments. The manager said Black people “are only good at sports and entertainment” and “just scream and holler in church,” according to the complaint.

Goode claims that last October the manager blocked him from interviewing for a promotion that ultimately went to a white worker.

Goode says he subsequently told the manager that his racial comments were unprofessional and weeks later was suspended and then fired for being late in turning in expense reports. Tesla company policy does not set a deadline for the reports, Goode claims.

The lawsuit, which alleges violations of California and federal laws banning workplace race discrimination and retaliation, seeks damages for lost wages and benefits and emotional distress and punitive damages.

Along with the Diaz case, the EV maker is facing a proposed class action by Black workers and a lawsuit by a California state agency alleging widespread race discrimination at the Fremont plant.

Tesla has denied wrongdoing in those cases and has said the lawsuit by the California Civil Rights Department was politically motivated.

(Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York; Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Matthew Lewis)