Automaker told Black workers to 'ignore' superiors calling them 'Buckwheat' and N-word: lawsuit
Stressed black man (Shutterstock)

Two Black workers for the electric vehicle manufacturer Rivian argue in a pair of federal lawsuits that HR officials at their plant in Normal, Illinois brushed aside their complaints about racist abuse from coworkers and superiors, WGLT reported this week.

"The first plaintiff was a contracted employee through MacLellan Services, Rivian’s custodial services contractor. His lawsuit is against Rivian 'doing business as' MacLellan Services," reported Ryan Denham. "The first plaintiff claimed a co-worker called him the N-word, and that another co-worker said, 'That’s not going to work, Buckwheat,' after he made a mistake during training. He also claimed his 'team lead' made an 'ignorant, racially motivated' comments to him." When he reported the abuse to his supervisor, an HR rep told him to "just ignore the racist and offensive comments being made toward him" and urged him not to "take it to heart," according to the lawsuit, and no discliplinary action was taken against the perpetrators.

"The second plaintiff said he was hired by Rivian through Arrow Talent Management, a staffing agency. His lawsuit is against both Rivian and Arrow. His exact role at Rivian and Arrow was unclear Thursday," said the report.

According to this plaintiff, his supervisor called him the N-word when a tool broke while he was using it, and the worker was fired after reporting the incident.

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Both lawsuits are being litigated by the same attorney.

Rivian, which manufacturers electric trucks, SUVs, and vans, is already subject to a separate sexual harassment lawsuit that was filed last September, by a female employee who alleges she was harassed and groped by coworkers "multiple times." The company is trying to quash the lawsuit and force the matter into private arbitration, despite Congress passing a law last year prohibiting forced arbitration in sexual harassment cases. Rivian argues that because the alleged harassment happened before that law took effect, the employee doesn't retroactively gain the right to file a lawsuit.

Rivian is not the only automaker that has faced allegations of a discriminatory work culture. Last year, California filed a civil rights lawsuit against electric car giant Tesla, alleging that their plant in Fremont is effectively "racially segregated" because of a rampant hostile work environment and systemic denials of equal pay and promotion opportunities to Black employees. Another former Tesla empoyee alleges in a separate suit that he was fired for reporting racial discrimination and safety violations.