Counsel for the plaintiff said it was possibly the biggest racial discrimination award in US history.
A federal jury in California has ordered Tesla to pay nearly $ 137 million to a black entrepreneur after the man filed a complaint of workplace harassment and widespread racial discrimination.
According to National Public Radio, the complaint was filed by Owen Diaz, who worked as an elevator operator at the Tesla factory in Fremont, California.
At Fremont, Diaz says he and other Black Tesla employees regularly heard – and were called – the “n-word.” Diaz says a colleague told him to “go back to Africa”.
His lawsuit also claims that Tesla’s Fremont facility was indeed covered in racist graffiti, which included both offensive terms and derogatory images.
While Diaz says he was initially excited to work for Tesla, instead of finding an engaging and welcoming place to work, he encountered a “scene straight from Jim Crow.”
Although Tesla employees are usually subject to strict arbitration agreements that prevent them from suing the company, Diaz worked as an entrepreneur and was able to take legal action as a result.
But before deciding to file a legal complaint, Diaz tried to fix things himself: he spoke to supervisors about the discriminatory treatment at the Fremont facility and also reported the bad behavior to contracting companies Citistaff and nextSource.
However, neither Tesla nor the contracting companies have taken any action.
Larry Organ, one of Diaz’s attorneys, told National Public Radio that he and his client are happy that the world now knows the truth about Tesla’s work culture.
“I’m glad this jury saw the truth and sent a message to Tesla to clean up his workplace,” Organ said.
The jury’s prize, NPR adds, included $ 6.9 million in emotional damage and an incredible $ 130 million in punitive damages, which are awarded to punish unusually flagrant misconduct.
Organ told NPR he believed Owen’s award was the largest single-plaintiff racial discrimination settlement in U.S. history.
“Owen and I both hope this sends a message to American companies to review your workplace and, if there are any issues there, take proactive steps to protect employees from racist behavior. “, Organ added. “It’s happening, and we need to do something about it.”
Tesla’s “People’s Vice President” Valerie Capers Workman released a statement admitting that an internal investigation found eyewitnesses who corroborated Owens’ account, but said the use of the “n- word “was meant to be friendly rather than insulting.
While saying the amount of the reward is inappropriate, Workman acknowledged that Tesla has had his issues, but is actively working to improve himself.
“While we firmly believe that these facts do not justify the jury’s verdict in San Francisco, we recognize that in 2015 and 2016 we were not perfect. We are still not perfect. But we’ve come a long way in the past 5 years, ”said Workman. “The Tesla of 2015 and 2016 is not the same as the Tesla of today.”
Former Tesla employee speaks out after winning $ 137 million lawsuit
Tesla must pay $ 137 million to black employee who sued for racial discrimination