WSJ News Exclusive | Black Former Tesla Worker Awarded More Than $130 Million in Damages


Tesla Inc.

TSLA 0.81%

subjected a Black former employee to a racially hostile work surroundings and didn’t take cheap steps to stop him from being racially harassed, a federal jury discovered Monday.

The eight-person jury awarded greater than $130 million in damages to

Owen Diaz,

who labored as an elevator operator at Tesla’s Fremont, Calif., manufacturing unit in 2015 and 2016.

He was often known as racial epithets at work, the place he noticed racist photos and language written within the rest room and elsewhere, stated

Bernard Alexander,

one in every of his attorneys, through the trial. The manufacturing unit, positioned within the San Francisco Bay Space, was Tesla’s lone auto meeting plant on the time, using roughly 10,000 individuals.

Mr. Diaz, 53, held his head in his fingers after the jury’s verdict was learn. He known as the choice a weight off his shoulders. The trial lasted simply over per week.

“It shines a lightweight on what’s happening inside Tesla’s manufacturing unit,” he stated. “Elon Musk, you’ve been placed on discover. Clear that manufacturing unit up.”

Tracey Kennedy, an legal professional for Tesla, stated in her closing argument that there was no proof {that a} Tesla worker harassed Mr. Diaz and that the corporate shouldn’t be held answerable for the remedy Mr. Diaz alleged. Many employees at Tesla’s manufacturing unit are contractors employed by means of staffing businesses.

Tesla’s vice chairman of individuals, Valerie Capers Workman, stated in an e-mail to workers Monday that when Mr. Diaz complained about harassment, the corporate ensured its staffing businesses took motion.

“Whereas we strongly imagine that these details don’t justify the decision reached by the jury in San Francisco, we do acknowledge that in 2015 and 2016 we weren’t excellent,” she stated within the be aware, which was republished on Tesla’s blog.

Tesla Chief Govt Elon Musk didn’t instantly reply to a request for touch upon the decision or any plans to enchantment.

The trial centered on three claims: that Tesla subjected Mr. Diaz to a racially hostile work surroundings; that the corporate failed to stop him from being racially harassed; and that it was negligent in its supervision or retention of an worker, inflicting hurt to Mr. Diaz.

Tesla denied in a court docket submitting that it was conscious of the alleged discriminatory and harassing conduct and didn’t take motion to guard Black workers. Ms. Kennedy urged the jury to seek out in Tesla’s favor on every of the claims.

The jury, after roughly 4 hours of deliberation, present in favor of Mr. Diaz on all claims and ordered Tesla to pay Mr. Diaz $6.9 million in compensatory damages and $130 million in punitive damages.

It’s the second time in current months that the electric-vehicle maker has been discovered liable in a case involving claims of race-based harassment or discrimination.

One other Black former Tesla employee,

Melvin Berry,

gained a $1 million judgment in Could after an arbitrator discovered that he was known as racial slurs by his supervisors and subjected to different racial conduct within the Fremont manufacturing unit. Tesla was obligated to research and cease the racial discrimination and failed to take action, the arbitrator stated in her order.

Tesla stated that any actions the corporate took weren’t racially primarily based, in line with the order.

Mr. Diaz, who was employed by a staffing company, didn’t signal an arbitration settlement, permitting his case to proceed to trial. His attorneys stated they believed this to be the primary case involving alleged harassment or discrimination at Tesla to succeed in trial.

Tesla is going through related claims in California state court docket, the place former Tesla meeting employee Marcus Vaughn sued, alleging that Tesla created an intimidating, hostile and offensive work surroundings for Black employees. He and different plaintiffs are looking for class certification.

Tesla has denied the claims, court docket data present. In a blog post after Mr. Vaughn filed his lawsuit in 2017, Tesla stated, “it isn’t humanly attainable to cease all unhealthy conduct, however we are going to do our greatest to make it as near zero as attainable.”

An investor proposal up for consideration at Tesla’s annual shareholder assembly Thursday calls on the board to supervise preparation of a report about how the corporate’s use of necessary arbitration impacts workers and company tradition. Tesla’s board has urged traders to vote towards the proposal. The same measure failed final yr.

Write to Rebecca Elliott at [email protected]

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