Former Tesla Employee Sues Tesla, Alleging Retaliation for Reporting Dangerous Construction Violations and Racial Discrimination
Marc Cage, a former Construction Project Manager with Tesla filed a civil lawsuit today in Alameda County Superior Court alleging that he was fired for reporting widespread construction violations in Tesla’s factories and race discrimination. Cage, who is African American, alleges that Tesla’s facilities were filled with racist graffiti and that he faced repeated bigoted insults on the job. As a former Department of Defense contractor in Afghanistan, Cage alleges he was discriminated against and harassed for his perceived Veteran status and reporting construction violations to his superiors.
Cage’s complaint comes on the heels of a representative action filed by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) against Tesla on February 10, 2022, alleging that Tesla’s racist culture has remained unchecked for years and that as early as 2012, Black and/or African American Tesla workers have complained that Tesla production leads, supervisors, and managers constantly use the n-word and other racial slurs to refer to Black workers, that swastikas, “KKK,” the n-word, and other racist writings were etched onto restroom stalls, lunch tables, and even factory machinery, that Black and/or African American workers were assigned to more physically demanding posts and the lowest-level contract roles, paid less, and more often terminated from employment than other non-Black or African American employees.
Cage’s experience was consistent with many of the allegations in the DFEH complaint. In his complaint, Cage alleges that he routinely encountered racist imagery and phrases on the walls of the workplace, that virtually every restroom in Tesla’s Fremont facility contained writings or carvings of racist slurs and symbols, including swastikas. Cage also alleges he was addressed as “boy” on the job, and received other insulting, racist stereotypical commentary. Despite complete awareness of this intensely racist environment, Tesla did nothing to remedy it, and terminated Mr. Cage for reporting safety violations and race.
Cage also alleges that he witnessed and reported countless violations to dozens of Tesla personnel in various departments, including to the highest levels of the company. He reported violations that risked massive explosions at the Gigafactory, systematic failures to report serious on-the-job injuries, building code violations, and Tesla’s failure to retain qualified construction and safety personnel in violation of state and federal law. Cage also says these reports were uniformly ignored, and to quiet his reports, Tesla transferred him out of his department and fired him. Cage’s allegations are consistent with scrutiny Tesla has faced for years over its spotty safety record, which some have linked to its efforts to ramp up production to meet sales goals.
Tamarah Prevost, a partner at the Burlingame firm of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, said:
“Tesla was motivated by retaliation when it terminated Mr. Cage – as a Certified Special Inspector, he was trained to uphold the highest level of construction compliance and repeatedly reported dangerous, hazardous, and life-threatening violations. Tesla ignored his reports, then fired him. Terminating Mr. Cage also perpetuates the company’s troubling pattern of prioritizing speed of production over employee safety.”
“Mr. Cage also experienced what no employee should ever have to endure: a blatantly racist workplace. Tesla’s failure to remedy the outrageous treatment that he and other African American and Black employees experienced is unjustifiable. And Mr. Cage’s allegations that his firing was racially motivated spell out a clear wrongful termination claim under California law.”
Melissa Montenegro, an attorney at the Burlingame firm of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, said:
“Despite Tesla’s public-facing promises that it has improved safety in its plants, Mr. Cage’s lawsuit alleges a very different reality. After reporting serious and life-threatening violations of laws meant to protect employees and the public, Mr. Cage alleges Tesla did nothing to cure them, and fired him instead. We expect further discovery into Mr. Cage’s allegations will reveal that very little about Tesla’s culture has actually changed, despite its public assurances.”
Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy engages exclusively in litigation and trials and has earned a national reputation for its dedication to prosecuting or defending socially just and economic fraud actions.