Bulletins

Tesla must pay $137 million to a former worker in a racial harassment suit

Tesla workers on the line in Fremont, California
Just under 120 people have requested the right to sue Tesla since 2018 for discriminatory reasons, according to public records obtained by Protocol.
Photo: David Butow/Getty Images

A San Francisco jury handed a sweeping victory to ex-Tesla worker Owen Diaz yesterday in his racial harassment suit against Tesla, awarding him about $137 million in damages.


The jury ruled in favor of Diaz, an elevator operator employed by a contracting firm at the company's Fremont factory from 2015-2016, on all three counts in the case: that Tesla subjected him to a racially hostile work environment, that the company failed to protect him from racial harassment, and that the company negligently failed to address the issue. The jury ordered Tesla pay Diaz $6.9 million in compensatory damages and $130 million in additional damages.

The case has been ongoing since 2017 and is one of several suits filed by the California Civil Rights Law Group against Tesla for racial harassment and discrimination issues, including an ongoing class action that claims that workers at Tesla's Fremont factory are regularly subject to an environment where they are called the "n" word, find racist slurs and graffiti on bathroom walls and are treated differently because of their race. More than 100 sworn declarations in that suit attest to the same experience, and more than 100 individuals have requested the right to sue Tesla for discriminatory reasons from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing between 2018 and March 2021, Protocol previously reported.

Diaz's trial was an exceptionally rare occurrence because Tesla usually forces arbitration for its ex-workers, but Diaz did not sign an arbitration agreement and was therefore able to pursue a jury trial. Another ex-worker was recently awarded $1 million in a closed-door arbitration.

"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. We're still not perfect," Tesla VP of People Operations Valerie Capers Workman wrote in a statement Monday.

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