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 did not resign after he appeared in an Audi commercial with company permission that aired during the 2020 Super Bowl.
Naymon Frank's Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit allegations include discrimination, harassment, constructive discharge, intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud and various state labor code violations. Frank seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the suit brought Friday.
A Tesla representative could not be immediately reached.
Before 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 suit states. He previously worked in store management at Iniqlo, according to the suit.
Frank was hired by Tesla in August 2016 to a sales position in Newport Beach and one of the incentives included the promise of stock options, the suit states. He also trained workers in Buena Park, Brea and Costa Mesa, according to the suit
In November 2018, Frank became an assistant store manager in San Diego and often worked 80 hours a week without overtime pay, meal or rest breaks or compensation for his relocation costs, the suit alleges. He was passed over four times while seeking promotion to store manager, the suit states.
A year later, Frank was chosen to appear in an Audi commercial for the Audi e-tron luxury electric car to be shown during the Super Bowl in 2020, the suit states. Although Frank was never been told he could not do such work while employed at Tesla, he asked his boss for permission, according to the suit.
Management gave Frank three days off to work on the commercial and no one said anything about a possible conflict of interest, but a regional manager nonetheless told the entire leadership team at the Carlsbad location that his appearance ``wasn't that cool,'' the suit states.
The Audi commercial indeed aired during the Super Bowl on Jan. 31, 2020, the day before Frank's new job as assistant store manager began in Santa Monica, where he was told that the regional manager was fired and that the plaintiff was being given the chance to resign or be terminated himself because of his appearance in the Audi commercial and its conflict of interest, according to the suit.
Feeling he had no other options, he faced losing a significant amount of stock benefits as a result, the suit states. He believes Musk wanted him to quit or be fired, saying the Tesla owner knew him because an auto-pilot vehicle in which Frank was riding crashed during the plaintiff's first year with the company, the suit states.
Frank alleges he was harassed during his time with Tesla because he is Black and also maintains that his race is why he was not promoted four times. While he worked at the Tesla San Diego-UTC location, every Black salesperson there was fired, according to the suit.
Frank also believes that while employed at Tesla he was the only Black person there who had a managerial level position and he was told during a performance review that he ``can be a scary-looking guy,'' the suit states.