Ex-employee Sues Tesla, Claims Age Discrimination Led to Firing
A materials engineer fired by Tesla Motors earlier this year is suing the automaker, claiming that his age led to the dismissal.
The discrimination suit filed by Thomas Flessner, 69, paints a picture of a Logan’s Run-like corporate atmosphere that values youth above all else, Fusion reports. It’s the latest in a steady stream of complaints about the youth-focused culture within the tech industry.
Flessner joined the company as a contract hire before earning a full-time position on the automaker’s engineering team in 2012. He claims that his casting work earned him praise from CEO Elon Musk, and led to his position at the company’s Fremont, California factory. Once on board, however, two of his three supervisors allegedly made disparaging comments about his age, and one singled him out for it.
According to the suit, Flessner was regularly shut out of meetings, faced unusually harsh rebukes, and saw numerous complaints about his work performance. He alleges that his supervisor often called him out for working too slowly. The average age of the engineering group was 27, Flessner claims.
His suit claims that “the younger engineers were not criticized for the speed of their work by (supervisor Paul) Edwards even though they did not accomplish their projects any faster than plaintiff.”
While serving as manager of casting technologies, Flessner’s manager, Mark Young, allegedly shot down any feedback from him. Young’s comments were along the lines of, “I don’t need that from an old guy like you.”
The treatment allegedly worsened when he returned to work after taking time off for congestive heart failure. An ex-supervisor, with whom Flessner had a good working relationship, warned that his current supervisors were “gunning” for him. Before his termination in February, Flessner claims that he and Edwards worked on an “action plan” to improve his work performance.
The plan stemmed from a September 2015 performance review, in which Edwards claimed he wasn’t working fast enough. According to the suit, “This criticism was unreasonable because it held Plaintiff to a higher standard than the other, younger, engineers. It was clear to Plaintiff that Mr. Edwards was implying that he worked slower because of his age. His work had not changed and his review showed that he continued to provide value to the company.”
Flessner is suing for compensatory damages, including lost wages and stock options, pre-judgment interest, attorneys’ fees and costs, and punitive damages.
According to Pay Scale, the median age of Tesla employees is 30 — about average for a tech company. Past media reports on employment within the field revealed the surprising lengths to which some workers will go to avoid being seen as “old,” including one 26-year-old worker who underwent plastic surgery to appear more youthful.
In a society that prides itself on being diverse and non-discriminatory, Flessner’s lawsuit calls out an often ignored form of bias.
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@dukeisduke - "Harder to train? Yes. And the guy is 69, already past retirement age. I feel bad for the guy, but not that bad." @SaulTigh "if you’re not able to retire at 69, you’ve done something wrong." Both of these statements should make intelligent people cringe. Shortly after 1900 retirement was introduced as an incentive for people over 65 to enjoy life for a few years before they died by the age of 72. It wasn't something people who liked their work looked forward to. Until 1900's you worked until you wanted to quit. Once the retirement opportunity was introduced, young employees wanted to use it to get the old guy out of their way and unable to point out the flaws in their logic. I am 55 and have no intention of retiring or letting my skillset fall behind the times. People on both sides of my family tree live into their 90's. The only thing the 30 somethings have on me is physical strength and the ability to work long hours. I make up for that with experience and work smarter to resolve problems quicker because I have seen them or their cousins already many times. 69 is a number. Based on this logic(or lack of) we can't learn anything more from Jack Welch because he is 81. Warren Buffet should just lie down because he is 86. Ray Kroc was 59 when he founded McDonalds. Colonel Sanders started KFC when he was 72. Finally, we will all miss the Duke basketball coach as Mike Krzyzewski is ... 69 years old. Dukeisduke, please tell him it is time to go. @SaulTigh - being able to retire and wanting to retire are different. I will be able to retire soon, but have no intention of doing so until I quit enjoying what I do and even then I will find something else to do.