Tesla has been ordered to pay nearly $3.2 million to a black former worker after he won a racial harassment lawsuit, BBC News reports.
Owen Diaz, an elevator operator from 2015 to 2016 at the company’s Fremont plant, was subjected to a racially hostile work environment, a federal jury found.
The damages awarded were 98% less than the $137 million he was originally awarded in 2021. Last year, however, a judge ruled that the original amount was excessive. On Monday, Mr. Diaz was awarded $3 million in punitive damages and $175,000 in emotional distress damages.
“Had we been allowed to present new evidence, the verdict would have been zero. The jury did the best they could with the information they had. I respect the decision.”
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter.
He did not provide details on what new evidence the company would have presented, and Tesla attorney Alex Spiro declined to comment. In the original lawsuit, Mr. Diaz alleged that African-American workers “encountered a scene straight out of the Jim Crow era” at the company’s plant in Fremont, Calif.
He alleges that black workers regularly faced racial slurs on the plant floor and racist graffiti in the bathrooms. The lawsuit also says employees referred to places where blacks or African Americans worked by racist historical names, such as “the plantation.”
One worker is alleged to have heard racial slurs “up to 50-100 times a day.”
In 2021, a federal court in San Francisco found that Tesla failed to take reasonable steps to address the slurs, despite complaints to supervisors. The jury awarded Mr. Diaz $137 million in damages. At the time, Tesla disputed the verdict but said it acknowledged it was “not perfect.”
In April 2022, a US federal judge reduced the damages awarded to Mr Diaz to $15m and said the damages set by the jury were “extremely high”.
“Mr Diaz’s view of the world has been permanently altered. That’s what happens when you take away a man’s security”,
said Bernard Alexander, a lawyer for Mr Diaz.
Mr. Alexander urged the jury to award his client nearly $160 million in damages. But Tesla’s lawyer, Mr. Spiro, said Mr. Diaz’s lawyers had failed to prove that Tesla had caused serious and lasting damage.