Owen Diaz, a former Black contract elevator operator at Tesla, sued the Company saying he was discriminated against for being Black and even asked to return to Africa. As a result, a federal jury in San Francisco has ordered that Tesla pay Diaz $137 million in damages.
Diaz, who worked at Tesla’s Fremont factory, in California, has said in the lawsuit that although he had joined Tesla thinking it would be a modern workplace, contrary to his beliefs, it turned out to be more stuck in the past. His complaints to Tesla as well as the staffing companies, Citistaff and nextSource, fell on deaf ears. No action was taken to stop the discrimination.
As per the court verdict, Tesla will have to pay $130 million in punitive damages and $6.9 million to make up for the emotional trauma that he had to suffer.
The lawyers who represented Diaz claim that the lawsuit was able to progress only because Diaz had not put his signature to the mandatory arbitration agreements which Tesla is known to use to avoid a public trial and to get workers to arrive at an amicable agreement in case of disputes.
Tesla pointed out that even though there were witnesses who claimed that the N-word was often used in the factory, these very witnesses also admit that it was done so in a friendly way, and not with the intention of hurting anyone.
The Company has fired two contractors following the lawsuit and also suspended another. It also admits that even though it wasn’t the perfect workplace five years ago, it certainly has come a long way and has improved in many ways.