By Daniel Wiessner
Jan 11 (Reuters) – Tesla Inc has suffered another setback in its attempt to challenge the powers of California’s Department of Civil Rights, which is suing the electric carmaker over alleged racial discrimination at its flagship assembly plant.
An Oakland, Calif., judge in a preliminary ruling late Tuesday dismissed Tesla’s counterclaim, which alleges the agency failed to notify the company of the bias allegations or give it a chance to settle before it last was sued in February.
California Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo gave Tesla until Feb. 3 to file an amended complaint detailing claims that the agency issued “underground regulations” to disregard the requirements that they must comply with before filing any lawsuits.
A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday morning.
A Tesla representative and the agency did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The agency argues that Tesla’s Fremont, California plant is a racially segregated workplace where black employees have faced harassment and discrimination over work orders, discipline and pay.
Tesla has denied wrongdoing and said the lawsuit was politically motivated.
Grillo in August denied Tesla’s motion to have the case dismissed, saying his attack on the agency’s practices was not a defense against the discrimination allegations. Tesla filed the countersuit in September.
Also in August, another state agency declined to investigate a Tesla complaint on the grounds that the Civil Rights Department is suing companies without conducting thorough investigations.
Several lawsuits are pending in California courts alleging that Tesla tolerates discrimination and sexual harassment in its factories.
A state judge in April reduced a jury award to a black worker accused of racial harassment from $137 million to $15 million. The worker refused the reduced premium and opted for a new trial, scheduled for March. (Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York; Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Kevin Liffey)