Rina Torchinsky, NPR, April 14, 2022
A federal judge has slashed a Black former contract worker’s payout to $15 million — from $137 million — in a racial discrimination lawsuit against Tesla.
Owen Diaz, who worked as a contract elevator operator at the automaker’s factory in Fremont, Calif., sued the company in 2017, alleging that he was subjected to racial discrimination.
After a federal jury in San Francisco ordered Tesla to pay Diaz $137 million last year, Tesla challenged the verdict.
On Wednesday, Judge William Orrick cut the award to $15 million.
“That’s the maximum,” Larry Organ, Diaz’ lawyer and founder of the California Civil Rights Law Group, told NPR. “It wasn’t because [the judge] found anything wrong with what Mr. Diaz said or that Mr. Diaz wasn’t injured or anything like that. It’s just based on a comparison.”
Diaz testified that employees called him the N-word among other racial slurs. A Tesla supervisor called him the N-word “more than 30 times,” Diaz testified, according to court documents obtained by NPR.
California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing is also suing Tesla over alleged racism and harassment of Black employees in the same factory.
In a message to employees last year that was shared on the company blog, a Tesla executive outlined what the jury heard and said the company believes “these facts don’t justify the verdict.”