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Valerie Capers Workman
Valerie Capers Workman, one of the highest-ranking Black employees and the head of human resources at Tesla Inc., is stepping down at the end of January to join Handshake, a career network firm. She is poised to become the chief legal officer at her new job.
At Tesla, Workman’s voice has stood out on the electric vehicle company’s COVID-19 stance, according to the L.A. Times. Her presence and rank have also sent the signal that the company is eager to eliminate the race ghosts that have haunted some of its vehicle plants.
Speaking to the Times, Workman stated she was sad leaving but also proud she was leaving the company in a better state than she found it.
“I am proud of all that I was able to accomplish at Tesla with the support of truly excellent colleagues, especially the People and Legal teams,” she said, before adding that she needed to pass off the baton in a better place than when she received it.
Workman joined Tesla in 2018 and was promoted to head the Human Resources in 2020 at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement. After the promotion, she reported directly to Elon Musk and was the force behind Tesla’s first Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion report. She also gave employees Juneteenth off.
But her efforts didn’t save Tesla from two high-profile settlements following lawsuits against the company. The company was sued for racial discrimination and its poor treatment of Black employees.
Last August, the company paid Melvin Berry more than $1 million for its failure to stop its supervisors from using a racist term to call him. When he confronted a supervisor about this frequent habit, Berry claimed he was in turn forced to work longer hours with heavier equipment
Again in October, a federal jury ordered Tesla to compensate Owen Diaz $137 million. Owen is another former Black employee who also faced workplace racial abuse, but on which the automaker turned a blind eye.
African Americans make up 10% of Tesla’s workforce, but only 5% of the company’s high-ranking workforce is Black. Workman has made it clear that the lawsuits and the related racial issues no longer reflect what Tesla stands for nowadays.