Former Tesla employee who said supervisors called it the N-word received $ 1 million

Tesla was ordered to pay around $ 1 million to a former employee who filed a lawsuit alleging his name was the N word while working at the electric automaker’s plant in California.

Melvin Berry was hired by Tesla as a material handler in 2015, but didn’t resign until 17 months later after being harassed at work, court documents show. Earlier this year, Berry hired San Francisco employment lawyer Jeannette Vaccaro to represent him in a private arbitration hearing with Tesla. Vaccaro argued that Tesla’s supervisors ignored Berry’s complaints when he told them he was called the N word by colleagues.

Arbitrator Elaine Rushing said in her ruling that there was evidence that two Tesla supervisors used racial slurs against Berry and that these cases caused him emotional and psychological harm. Rushing noted that “the case law is clear that a case of a supervisor directing the N word to a subordinate is sufficient to constitute serious harassment. “

“No other word in English so powerfully or instantly evokes our country’s long and brutal struggle to overcome racism and discrimination against African Americans,” she wrote.

News of the million dollar award was first reported by Bloomberg.


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Berry filed two complaints in 2017 against his supervisors at Tesla with the California Fair Employment Office, according to court documents. In his complaint, Berry said that after confronting them at the Fremont, Calif. Plant for calling him a racial insult, he was forced to work longer and push a heavier material cart. .

Although Berry has technically received $ 1 million, over $ 755,000 will be spent on attorney and attorney fees. He will receive approximately $ 266,000 in damages, according to court documents.

“We hope this award of over $ 1 million will inspire change at Tesla and send a message to all employers that harassment and discrimination have no place in the workplace,” Vaccaro said in a statement Friday. at CBS MoneyWatch.

KKK signs and swastikas

The Berry case is one of three racial discrimination lawsuits filed by former employees against Tesla since 2017.

In a class action lawsuit representing more than 100 employees, former Tesla employee Marcus Vaughn alleges white colleagues engaged in racist behavior, including using racial slurs against black employees. Vaughn and others at the Fremont plant were regularly called the N word by supervisors at the Fremont plant, according to the complaint. Another black employee said in court documents that he was called the N word about 100 times and saw KKK signs and spray-painted swastikas on the toilet.

In a third lawsuit, two former Tesla employees, a black father and son, Owen Diaz and Demetric Di-az, also said they were subjected to “severe and pervasive racial harassment” while working at the Fremont factory in 2015 and 2016. Di-az worked at Tesla as a production associate while his father worked as an elevator operator, court documents show. Their case is expected to be tried in September.


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Tesla did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Berry’s case. The company has denied the claims of Berry and the others. In a 2017 blog post on the company’s website titled “Hotbed of Misinformation,” Tesla states that it “is absolutely against any form of discrimination, harassment or unfair treatment of any kind.” .

“Everyone at Tesla, without exception, is required to take an anti-discrimination course,” the company said in the post, adding that “our company has more than 33,000 employees, of whom more than 10,000 are in the workforce. Fremont’s only factory, so it’s not humanly possible to stop all misbehavior, but we’ll do our best to get it as close to zero as possible. “

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