Owen Diaz, a former Tesla elevator operator, sued the company, claiming he was discriminated against for being black and even asked to return to Africa. As a result, a federal court in San Francisco ordered Tesla to pay Diaz $137 million in damages.
Diaz, who worked at Tesla’s Fremont, Calif., plant said in the lawsuit that while he joined Tesla and thought it would be a modern workplace, contrary to his beliefs, he would be more stuck in the past. His complaints to Tesla, as well as recruitment agencies Citstaff and next source, went unheard. No measures were taken to prevent discrimination.
Under the court’s decision, Tesla must pay $130 million in punitive damages and $6.9 million to compensate for the emotional trauma he suffered.
Attorneys representing Diaz say the process can only proceed because Diaz has not signed the binding arbitration agreements that Tesla uses to avoid a public hearing and obtain an amicable settlement from employees in case of disputes.
Tesla pointed out that although there were witnesses who claimed that the N-word was used regularly in the factory, the same witnesses also admitted that it was done in a friendly manner and not to harm anyone.
The company fired two contractors and suspended another after the trial. He also admits that while it wasn’t the perfect track five years ago, it has certainly come a long way and improved in many ways.