California’s Office of Administrative Law (OAL) denied Tesla’s petition against the state’s civil rights watchdog for failing to conduct proper investigations before suing the automaker for racial discrimination at its Fremont assembly plant.
Tesla filed the petition with the OAL in June, claiming that the Department of Civil Rights (DCR), formerly known as the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, adopted “underground regulations” that disregard requirements the agency needs to make before filing lawsuits against employers. Tesla lawyers argued that the DCR didn’t give Tesla fair notice of an investigation or help mediate disputes before going to court.
The letter denying Tesla’s petition is dated August 8, according to Reuters. The OAL, which reviews state agency regulations, did not respond in time to comment, but Reuters reports the agency did not provide a reason for why it denied Tesla’s challenge. Sources familiar with the law told TechCrunch the OAL might have denied the petition because Tesla would have needed to submit it before the DCR’s case against the automaker began.
The OAL did say that Tesla can still pursue its claims in court, and indeed there should be further updates on the case this week. Around the time Tesla originally filed its OAL petition, California Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo ruled not to stay the lawsuit, but did agree to set a hearing on August 24 for a demurrer motion, or a motion to dismiss, based on potentially questionable practices of the DCR.
The DCR originally filed suit against Tesla in February after collecting “hundreds of complaints from workers” and evidence that the Fremont factory is a “segregated workplace where black workers are subjected to racial slurs and discriminated against in job assignments, discipline, pay and promotion creating a hostile work environment.” Tesla has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
The Fremont factory has been the center of many lawsuits against the electric car manufacturer. A former elevator operator is still in the process of suing Tesla for compensatory and punitive damages after alleging that colleagues subjected him to racial harassment and bias, including calling him racist slurs and drawing swastikas. A state judge in April slashed a former jury verdict for the Black worker from $137 million to $15 million. The worker rejected the reduced award and is awaiting a new trial.
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