Tesla Ordered To Pay Former Employee $137 Million USD Over Racism Case
Owen Diaz allegedly experienced racial harassment in 2015 and 2016 at Tesla’s Fremont factory.
A federal jury has ordered
Between 2015 and 2016, the African-American plaintiff Owen Diaz was contracted to work at Tesla’s Fremont, California factory as an elevator operator. At the time, Diaz reported that his supervisors and colleagues would often use racial slurs toward him. Some incidents included included telling him to “go back to Africa” and leaving racist graffiti and drawings in his workspace. In 2020, a federal judge rejected Tesla’s attempt to dismiss the claims, pushing the lawsuit forward to court. Since Diaz did not sign the arbitration agreements, the case was able to go to trial.
Diaz was awarded $130 million USD for punitive damages and $6.9 million USD for emotional distress. When his son Demetric Diaz faced similar racist epithets working at Tesla, Diaz reached a breaking point and sued the company alongside his son and another Black ex-employee. Lawrence Organ, Diaz’s lawyer commented, “It’s a great thing when one of the richest corporations in America has to have a reckoning of the abhorrent conditions at its factory for Black people.”
In a statement, Tesla’s VP of People, Valerie Capers Workman claimed that three witnesses did in fact hear the “n-word” being used on the factory floor, but she said that it was utilized in a “friendly manner and usually by African American colleagues.” Diaz is not the only ex-worker that Tesla has had to pay damages to. In another instance, Melvin Berry was rewarded $1 million USD for similar racist accusations in the workplace.
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