Tesla ordered to pay more than $3 million to former worker in racism suit

ByRamishah Maruf and Chris Isidore, CNN, CNNWire
Monday, April 3, 2023
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FREMONT, Calif. -- A jury ordered Tesla to pay over $3 million Monday in a racial discrimination case brought by a former employee of its assembly plant in Fremont, California.

The case was brought by Owen Diaz, who worked as an elevator operator at the plant. He reported he regularly heard racial slurs, including the N-word, on the Fremont factory floor, and saw racist graffiti in bathrooms and a racially insensitive cartoon.

A San Francisco federal jury said the electric car company will have to pay Diaz a total of $3,175,000.

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In October 2021, a jury awarded him $137 million in damages in the case, but a federal judge threw out that award as excessive. US District Judge William Orrick offered Diaz $15 million in damages in the case instead, but Diaz rejected the offer, choosing instead to have a new trial. It is that second trial in which the jury awarded Diaz the new amount.

The trial is separate from another case brought by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which said the agency had received "hundreds" of complaints from workers alleging racism and harassment at the Fremont factory.

Tesla has denied the charges that the situation was as bad as alleged in the two suits, but it has admitted there were problems which needed to be addressed at the plant.

In a blog post the company posted after the original 2021 verdict for $137 million, Valerie Capers Workman, then Tesla's Vice President, People, wrote, "We do recognize that in 2015 and 2016 we were not perfect. We're still not perfect. But we have come a long way from 5 years ago. We continue to grow and improve in how we address employee concerns."

Capers Workman, who is Black, has since left Tesla.

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