San Francisco, CA. – A California court has ordered Tesla to pay $137 million in damages to a former worker who filed a suit claiming he experience a hostile work environment, including racial harassment and discrimination, at the company’s Fremont plant.
Owen Diaz filed a lawsuit against the automotive giant after working at the plant between June 2015 and May 2016. Diaz told the court that he endured “daily racist epithets” at the plant, including the n-word and racist graffiti drawn on the bathroom walls.
Diaz also said he was told to “go back to Africa” by coworkers. According to the lawsuit, supervisors at the plant neglected to intervene in these issues and the stress of the hostile work environment caused Diaz to lose weight and suffer from “sleepless nights.”
Diaz was awarded $6.9 million in damages for emotional distress and $130 million in punitive damages.
Diaz’s other attorney, Larry Organ said he hopes the ruling encourages Tesla to do “some reevaluation” so none of its other Black workers have to endure similar treatment.
“The jury verdict sends a message to one of the wealthiest companies in the world that it must treat all its employees with dignity and respect,” he said.
Following the verdict, Tesla released a blog post defending itself – something the automaker rarely does since it dissolved its press relations team.
In the post, Tesla’s vice president of people, Valerie Capers Workman, says when Diaz complained about harassment “Tesla stepped in and made sure responsive and timely action was taken,” but acknowledges a number of incidents took place, and notes that “[t]he Tesla of 2015 and 2016 (when Mr. Diaz worked in the Fremont factory) is not the same as the Tesla of today.” Workman did not say whether Tesla plans to appeal the ruling.