Former Tesla worker awarded millions after being called N-word

Former Tesla worker awarded millions after being called N-word
Photo credit: / Vitaliy Karimov

A San Francisco jury has ordered Tesla to pay $137 million to Owen Diaz, a former employee of the company, after he was subjected to racial discrimination.

The jury ruled that Diaz was subjected to racial harassment and a hostile work environment while working at Tesla’s Fremont, California, plant in 2015 and 2016 as a contracted elevator operator.

In the lawsuit, Diaz alleged that he was harassed and called racist epithets, including the N-word. He said that his supervisors knew about the abuse but continued to turn a blind eye.

He also alleged that employees told him and other Black workers to “go back to Africa,” and drew racist graffiti in the restrooms and racist drawings in his workspace.

According to his attorney Lawrence A. Organ, Diaz was awarded $6.9 in damages for emotional distress and $130 million in punitive damages.

“It took four long years to get to this point,” Diaz told The New York Times. “It’s like a big weight has been pulled off my shoulders.”

“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,” Organ, of the California Civil Rights Law Group, told the Times.

In a message to employees after the decision on Monday, Oct. 4, 2021, Tesla’s vice president of people, Valerie Capers Workman, said the company “strongly” believes that the facts of the case don’t justify the verdict reached.

“We do recognize that in 2015 and 2016 we were not perfect. We’re still not perfect. But we have come a long way from five years ago. The Tesla of 2015 and 2016 (when Mr. Diaz worked in the Fremont factory) is not the same as the Tesla of today,” Workman said.

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