Tesla to pay ex-employee Owen Diaz $ 137 million for racist abuse at Fremont plant

FREMONT, Calif .– Tesla Inc. is due to pay nearly $ 137 million to a former black worker who said he suffered racist abuse at the automaker’s factory in Fremont.

The San Francisco jury agreed that Owen Diaz had experienced racial harassment and a hostile work environment.

Diaz alleged in a lawsuit that he was harassed and faced “daily racist epithets”, including the “N-word”, while working at the Tesla factory in Fremont in 2015 and 2016 before to resign. Diaz was a contract elevator operator.

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Diaz alleged that employees drew swastikas and left graffiti and racist designs around the factory. He argued that supervisors had failed to stop the abuse.

“Tesla’s progressive image was a front covering his regressive and demeaning treatment of African-American employees,” the lawsuit said.

Diaz was awarded $ 6.9 in emotional distress damages and $ 130 million in punitive damages, his attorney, Lawrence A. Organ, told the Washington Post.

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

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“It’s a good thing when one of America’s richest corporations has to consider the odious conditions in its factory for blacks,” California Civil Rights Law Group told The Times Organ.
It was not immediately clear whether Tesla would appeal the decision. An Associated Press email requesting comment from Tesla was not immediately returned Monday evening.

However, Tesla previously denied any knowledge of the alleged racist behavior at the factory, which has around 10,000 workers.

If upheld, the award would be a blow to a company that has been the subject of various allegations of workplace issues, but which requires employees to resolve disputes through compulsory arbitration, this that the company has rarely lost.

In May, an arbitrator ordered Tesla to pay more than $ 1 million for similar allegations by another former worker at the Fremont plant. This employee alleged that his co-workers called him a racial insult and that supervisors ignored his complaints.

Diaz, who was hired by a recruitment agency, did not have to sign an arbitration agreement.

Copyright © 2021 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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