Former Black Tesla Employee Wins $137M in Racial Abuse Lawsuit

In Summary

He might not be as rich as Elon Musk, but an ex-Tesla employee isn’t too far behind after a jury found he suffered racial abuse during his time at a California factory. 

A Black former Tesla Inc. employee is about to be $137 million richer after a jury agreed he was subjected to racial abuse and a hostile work environment at the electric carmaker’s San Francisco Bay Area factory, per the Associated Press. 

Owen Diaz worked as a contracted elevator operator at Tesla’s Freemont, California, factory for roughly a year between 2015 and 2016. He claims a supervisor and other coworkers routinely called him racial slurs, including the “N-word,” and used other measures to humiliate him. 

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He recalled swastikas being drawn and a racist epithet being scratched in a restroom stall, as well as drawings of unflattering caricatures of Black children being posted throughout the factory.  

Despite multiple complaints, Diaz claims Tesla did little to remedy the problem. 

“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,” said the victim’s lawyer Lawrence Organ. 

While the electric manufacturer denied knowing anything about the alleged discriminatory behavior at the site, it’s not the first time they’ve had to pay up. 

Melvin Berry, a former Black Tesla employee who filed a civil lawsuit saying the corporation did nothing to stop racial discrimination he faced at the same Freemont factory, was awarded $1 million in August

RELATED: First Black Police Chief of Iowa City Criticized for Reform Efforts 

The arbitrator in his case found evidence that two Tesla managers used racial insults against Berry, resulting in emotional and psychological injury. He was also said to have faced retaliation as a result of speaking out. 

Diaz, who is set to receive $6.9 million in damages for emotional distress and $130 million in punitive damages, told the New York Times’ Niraj Chokshi, “It’s like a big weight has been pulled off my shoulders.” 

If you or someone you know is struggling from trauma triggered by this story, resources are available here.

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