Tesla Ordered To Pay Black Contractor $137 Million In Damages In Racial Abuse Lawsuit

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Tesla has pay millions of dollars after a San Francisco jury sided with a Black former contractor who filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the electric vehicle manufacturer.

Autoweek reported that an eight-person federal jury on Oct. 4 awarded Owen Diaz nearly $137 million in damages for racist incidents he suffered in 2015 and 2016 while working at Tesla’s plant in Fremont, Calif. 

The award combines $6.9 million in compensatory damages and $130 million in punitive damages.

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

Diaz, an elevator operator, said co-workers, including a supervisor, repeatedly used a racial slur toward him. He endured racist graffiti in the bathroom and derogatory caricatures of Black children in the workplace.

He accused Tesla of largely ignoring his complaints. 

Diaz’s lawyer, Lawrence Organ, stated, “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.” 

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A blog post on Tesla’s website, written by human resources executive Valerie Capers,  said the company “strongly believes that these facts don’t justify the verdict reached by the jury in San Francisco,” referring to a list of what Capers claimed were facts thar the jurors heard during the weeklong trial.

Three other witnesses stated that they “regularly heard racial slurs (including the n-word) on the factory floor,” but they thought it was “used in a friendly” manner most often by Black workers, Capers stated.

“The Tesla of 2015 and 2016 (when Mr. Diaz worked in the Fremont factory) is not the same as the Tesla of today” the post said, citing its Employee Relations team and other changes at the company since Diaz worked there.

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