1:19 PM PDT, October 5, 2021
A San Francisco jury agreed that a former Tesla plant employee should be paid damages after he filed a lawsuit against the car maker, claiming he was racially abused on the job and was even called the “N” word, CBS News reported.
Tesla Inc. must pay nearly $137 million in damages to Owen Diaz, who said he suffered racial abuse at the electric car maker’s San Francisco Bay area factory, CBS News said.
“It took four long years to get to this point,” Diaz told The New York Times. “It’s like a big weight has been pulled off my shoulders.”
Diaz, a contracted elevator operator, alleged in a lawsuit that he was harassed and faced “daily racist epithets,” including the “N” word, while working at Tesla’s Fremont plant in 2015 and 2016 before he left the company, CBS News reported.
“Tesla’s progressive image was a façade papering over its regressive, demeaning treatment of African-American employees,” the lawsuit said.
Diaz claimed that swastikas and racial phrases were written and drawn around the plant, NBC News reported. Diaz said he contended that supervisors failed to stop the abuse, NBC News reported.
He said in his lawsuit obtained by NPR that the abuse he suffered was a “scene straight from the Jim Crow era.”
Diaz was awarded $6.9 in damages for emotional distress and $130 million in punitive damages, his attorney, Larry Organ, told the Washington Post.
Organ spoke to other press outlets, including Bloomberg where he said, “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.”
“It’s a great thing when one of the richest corporations in America has to have a reckoning of the abhorrent conditions at its factory for Black people,” Organ, of the California Civil Rights Law Group, told the New York Times.
Following the release of the verdict, Valerie Capers Workman, Tesla’s vice president of people, said in a statement to employees that Diaz never worked for Tesla directly and was an employee contracted with another company.
“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. But we have come a long way from 5 years ago,” Workman said.
“The Tesla of 2015 and 2016 is not the same as the Tesla of today,” she added.
Tesla previously denied any knowledge of the alleged racist conduct at the plant, which has about 10,000 workers, CBS News reported.
Inside Edition Digital has reached to Tesla for comment on this story and if they plan to appeal and has not heard back.