On Monday, Oct. 4, 2021, a San Francisco jury found that Owen Diaz, a former elevator operator at Tesla’s California assembly plant, was racially abused in the workplace and originally had to receive $137 million in compensatory and punitive damages. But the award has since been reduced to $15 million and Diaz is asking for a new trial.
At the hands of U.S. District Judge William Orrick, the judge reduced the award amount by $122 million in April 2022. The black former elevator operator attempted to appeal the decision. However, Orrick denied Diaz’s appeal motion, giving Diaz two weeks to decide if he wanted the amount reduced or if he wanted to try another lawsuit instead. In response, the former Tesla employee chose the latter. Diaz’s attorneys released a statement criticizing U.S. District Judge William Orrick and saying his decision was “unconstitutional.”
“Orrick’s decision exposed the systemic bias federal judges have against juries, which in turn violates plaintiffs’ constitutional rights to trial by jury,” Diaz’s attorneys said in a statement. .
Owen Diaz’s case is just the latest in allegations that Tesla fostered a racist and hostile workplace. According to NPR, in February 2022, the California Department of Fair Jobs and Housing sued Elon Musk’s automaker for rampant racism. Tesla allegedly allowed racist language and penalized “black employees harder than white employees and [denied] Career Advancement Opportunities and Equal Pay for Black Employees,” which were not audited at their Fremont, California location.