A federal jury in California has found that a Black ex-worker of Tesla is entitled to more than $130 million in damages and fees.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Owen Diaz — who worked as an elevator operator in the Fremont, CA factory in 2015 and 2016 — was subjected to a “racially hostile work environment” during his tenure at the plant. Diaz was regularly called racial epithets at work, was subjected to racist imagery in the bathroom and elsewhere, and was also subjected to other untold horrors simply because he was Black.
The crux of Diaz’s lawsuit against Tesla, however, was multi-fold. In addition to the horrific and racist treatment he was subjected to, Diaz alleged that the company not only failed to take reasonable measures against such racial harassment but also alleged that the company “was negligent in its supervision or retention of an employee, causing harm to Mr. Diaz,” per the Journal.
The jury ultimately agreed with Diaz’s assessment and awarded him $130 million in punitive damages, plus $6.9 million in compensatory damages.
Though an attorney for Tesla didn’t respond to the Journal’s request for comment, a representative for the Elon Musk-owned auto manufacturer admitted that the company did make some mistakes in the opening of its California factory. However, Valerie Capers Workman — the company’s Vice President of People — did stop short of admitting full liability in her statement, which was published on the company’s blog.
“While we strongly believe that these facts don’t justify the verdict reached by the jury in San Francisco, we do recognize that in 2015 and 2016 we were not perfect,” she said. “While they all agreed that the use of the n-word was not appropriate in the workplace, they also agreed that most of the time they thought the language was used in a ‘friendly’ manner and usually by African-American colleagues.”
This isn’t the first time that a jury has ruled against Tesla for creating a racially hostile work environment. In August 2021, AfroTech reported that another Black ex-employee, Melvin Berry, was awarded more than $1 million after he successfully proved that his supervisors at the plant failed to stop employees from calling him the n-word.