Ex-Tesla worker turns down $15M award in racial discrimination case; it was originally $137M 

Owen Diaz and his attorneys declined the slashed award, saying that it would not deter the automaker from future misconduct, opening the door for a new trial.

The Black former elevator operator who won a $137 million jury verdict in a racial abuse lawsuit against Tesla has turned down a $15 million award after the original judgment was slashed by a judge. Owen Diaz and his attorneys declined the award, saying that it would not deter the automobile manufacturer from future misconduct. 

The rejection of the reduced amount opens the door for a new trial.

“In rejecting the court’s excessive reduction by asking for a new trial, Mr. Diaz is again asking a jury of his peers to evaluate what Tesla did to him and to provide just compensation for the torrent of racist slurs that was directed at him,” his lawyers said, per NBC News.

A 2020 aerial view of the Tesla factory in Fremont, California, where the state’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing has uncovered a persistent pattern of racist behavior. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Diaz’s attorneys said in their statement that the judge’s decision highlighted the systemic bias that federal judges have against juries, which in turn violates the constitutional rights plaintiffs have to a trial by jury.

Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, is facing several lawsuits. As previously reported by theGrio, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing is suing the company for alleged racial discrimination and harassment. 

“After receiving hundreds of complaints from workers, DFEH found evidence that Tesla’s Fremont factory is a racially segregated workplace where Black workers are subjected to racial slurs and discriminated against in job assignments, discipline, pay, and promotion, creating a hostile work environment,” Kevin Kish, the agency’s director, said in a statement, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Some of the allegations against the company include the constant “use of the N-word and other racial slurs to refer to Black workers.” There also were complaints that “swastikas, ‘KKK,’ the N-word, and other racist writing are etched onto walls of restrooms, restroom stalls, lunch tables, and even factory machinery,” says the report from the DFEH, per the previous reporting. 

Additionally, “Black and/or African American workers are assigned to more physically demanding posts and the lowest-level contract roles, paid less and more often terminated from employment than other workers. There were also complaints that Black and/or African American workers are often denied advancement opportunities, and more often and more severely disciplined than non-Black workers,” according to reporting on the lawsuit.

Further, “A common narrative was Black and/or African American workers being taunted by racial slurs and then baited into verbal and physical confrontations, where they, in turn, were the ones disciplined for being purportedly ‘aggressive’ or ‘threatening,’” the lawsuit claimed. “These written warnings in their personnel files had consequences for later promotional and professional opportunities.”

Tesla has denied the allegations. 

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