Elon Musk has joined the board at Twitter, saying he plans to make several improvements to the platform. What might those improvements look like? Logically, one could make some inferences from what goes on at his other companies! According to multiple reports, things aren’t going particularly well, especially if you’re a woman or not white.
In February of this year, the state of California’s Department of Fair Housing and Labor sued Tesla over “rampant” discrimination against black employees in its plant in Fremont. Workers reported graffiti promoting violence against black people, with racist phrases like “all monkeys work outside,” which reportedly remained in the facility for months. The suit says that workers at the Tesla plant would refer to it as “the plantation” or “the slave ship.” They were also made to perform more physically demanding work, like cleaning the factory on their hands and knees. (Tesla called this lawsuit “counterproductive” in a blog post.)
This is far from the first time that workers at this Tesla plant have said that the environment is racist and discriminatory. In a New York Times report from 2018, workers at the factory said that they were called racial slurs and barred from promotions. At the time, Tesla was being sued by three former employees over the racism they experienced at the plant. Tesla was ordered to pay one of the people suing them $137 million in a settlement for punitive and emotional damages, one of the largest settlements for a single plaintiff in a racial harassment case.
(Notably, attorneys for the plaintiff said this suit could only proceed due to a quirk—their client happened not to have signed a mandatory arbitration agreement that would have prevented him from being able to sue Tesla.)
Women at Tesla have also said that their experiences at the company are discriminatory. In November 2021, one employee at the Fremont plant described the daily sexual harassment as “nightmarish.” In December, six women sued Tesla for sexual harassment. Their suit described an environment of daily harassment, “which includes a daily barrage of sexist language and behavior, including frequent groping on the factory floor.”
Again, reports of these conditions at Tesla were not new. In 2017, an engineer at Tesla sued the company over sexual harassment and gender based discrimination, saying that at Tesla, sexual harassment was tolerated and it was difficult for women to get raises or promotions. In response, Tesla fired her.
Last year, a woman who had worked at another Musk company, SpaceX, published an essay in which she said “misogyny is rampant” at the business.
Adding the guy that runs these companies to your board of directors, especially when people that use your product have complained of harassment of marginalized groups being endemic to the platform, is definitely a choice that one can make. But hey, maybe we’ll get an edit button on Twitter.
Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.