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Tesla blames ‘turf war’ for overlapping investigations into racial bias at its factory

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The company is asking a judge to pause a lawsuit filed by a California civil rights agency

Photo by Becca Farsace / The Verge

Tesla is asking a judge to delay a lawsuit filed by California’s civil rights agency that accuses the company of racial discrimination and harassment at its factory in Fremont, California.

In a filing in state court in Oakland, Tesla revealed that it is also being investigated by a different civil rights agency into similar allegations, accusing both agencies of conducting a “turf war.” The news was first reported by Reuters.

Last February, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) filed a lawsuit against Tesla in which it accuses the company of operating a “racially segregated” workplace.

In its court filing this week, Tesla revealed it is also being investigated by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The company accused DFEH of rushing its lawsuit in an effort to get ahead of the EEOC investigation, calling it a “bare bones investigation,” according to Reuters.

Tesla is requesting the court pause the DFEH lawsuit until it is able to resolve the EEOC investigation. The company also accused DFEH of violating a state law that requires it to meet certain thresholds before suing an employer.

This isn’t the first time that DFEH and EEOC have butted heads over employee harassment claims. The state agency recently lost a bid to block EEOC’s $18 million settlement with Activision Blizzard in a gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment claim. Last summer, DFEH filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard, alleging the company fostered a culture of “constant sexual harassment.”

Tesla has faced numerous allegations of racial discrimination and harassment at its Fremont plant. Last October, a jury awarded a Black former Tesla employee $137 million in damages after he accused the company of ignoring racial abuse and discrimination. (A judge later reduced that award to $15 million.)

The company also paid $1 million to another Black former employee who said he was called the n-word by a supervisor. Tesla currently faces a class-action lawsuit alleging racism at its flagship factory.