Former black assistant manager sues Car Company for discrimination
LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A black man who is a part-time actor and former NFL player is suing Tesla, alleging he was harassed and passed over for promotions because of his race and that Elon Musk told management to fire him if he didn’t get him to quit after he appeared in an Audi commercial with the company’s permission that aired during the 2020 Super Bowl.
Naymon Frank’s allegations in Los Angeles Superior Court include discrimination, harassment, constructive discharge, intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud, and various state labor code violations. Frank is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the lawsuit filed Friday.
A Tesla representative could not be immediately reached.
Prior to working at Tesla, Frank was a professional football player for the Green Bay Packers and an Oregon State Police officer and is still a part-time professional model and actor, the lawsuit says. He previously worked in store management at Iniqlo, according to the lawsuit.
Frank was hired by Tesla in August 2016 in a sales position in Newport Beach and one of the incentives included the promise of stock options, the lawsuit says. He also trained workers in Buena Park, Brea and Costa Mesa, according to the lawsuit.
In November 2018, Frank became an assistant manager at a store in San Diego and often worked 80-hour weeks without overtime pay, meals or breaks, or compensation for his relocation expenses, according to the suit. He was passed four times while seeking promotion to store manager, the lawsuit says.
A year later, Frank was chosen to appear in an Audi commercial for the Audi e-tron luxury electric car to be showcased during the Super Bowl in 2020, the suit says. Although Frank was never told he couldn’t do such work while employed at Tesla, he asked his boss for permission, according to the lawsuit.
Management gave Frank three days off to work on advertising and no one said anything about a possible conflict of interest, but a regional manager told the entire management team of the Carlsbad location that its appearance “wasn’t so cool”. the suit declares.
The Audi commercial indeed aired during the Super Bowl on January 31, 2020, the day before Frank’s new job as assistant store manager in Santa Monica, where he was told the regional manager had been fired and the plaintiff had the chance to resign or be fired himself due to his appearance in Audi advertising and his conflict of interest, according to the lawsuit.
Feeling he had no other options, he stood to lose a significant amount of equity upside, the suit says. He believes Musk wanted him to quit or be fired, saying the Tesla owner knew him because an autopilot vehicle Frank was riding in crashed during the plaintiff’s freshman year with the company, says the lawsuit.
Frank alleges that he was harassed during his time with Tesla because he is black and also argues that his race is the reason he was not promoted four times. While working at Tesla’s San Diego-UTC site, every black salesperson there was fired, according to the lawsuit.
Frank also believes that when he was employed at Tesla he was the only black person there in a leadership position and was told during a performance review that he “can be a scary guy”, indicates the suit.