Tesla Pays $137 Million to Former Employee Over Racial Abuse

Why does it seem like Tesla can’t stay out of trouble? Elon Musk is in the headlines about every other day due to something. But this time, Tesla should really be feeling the heat after being sued for racial discrimination. 

Tesla was sued over racial abuse 

A Tesla showroom
NEW YORK, NY – AUGUST 27: Tesla vehicles stand outside of a Brooklyn showroom | Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

A former contract elevator operator at a Tesla factory was shocked to discover that instead of having a modern workplace, he felt like he was in a scene straight from the Jim Crow era. This doesn’t seem right. 

According to NPR, a federal jury in San Fransico agrees. They ordered the company to pay the former black contractor $137 million over claims that he was subjected to racial discrimination while working. 

Owen Diaz worked as a contract elevator at the Tesla factory in Fremont, California, from 2015 to 2016. His lawsuit shared details about being called the N-word by fellow employees and was told to go back to Africa. 

The employees also drew racist and derogatory photos around the factory. This ruined Owen’s excitement to join a modern and progressive workplace. 

Diaz shared that they did nothing to stop the abuse 

Owen Diaz submitted complaints about the discriminatory treatment to Tesla and the contracting companies, Citistaff and nextSource. However, nothing was ever done to address his complaints or to stop the racist behavior. 

One of Diaz’s attorneys, Larry Organ, shared that he is gratified that the jury saw the truth. The message to clean up the workplace needed to be sent. 

The jury award includes $130 million in punitive damages and $6.9 million in emotional damages, according to the verdict. Organ shared that this could be the most significant award in a racial harassment case involving a single plaintiff in the history of the United States. 

Organ continued to share that he and Owen both hope that this sends a message to corporate America. It’s time to look at your workplace and if there are problems there, take proactive measures to protect employees against racial conduct. It’s happening, and we need to do something about it. 

The Tesla work culture has attempted to come a long way 

Inside the Tesla Safety Score to get Full Self-Driving
The new Tesla Safety Score system is causing issues | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Valerie Capers Workman, Tesla Vice President of People, shared in a statement on Tesla’s website that witnesses involved with the trial corroborated the fact that coworkers used the N-word on the factory floor. 

But apparently, those witnesses reportedly said the term was often used in a friendly manner. So, wait a minute. Does this mean that the word was also knowingly used in a non-friendly manner? 

Anyways, Workman also said that they followed up on Diaz’s complaints. As a result, the staffing agencies fired two contractors and suspended another. But what about the employees actually doing the racial abuse? 

Workman explained that while Tesla strongly believes these facts don’t justify the verdict reached by the jury, we do recognize that in 2015 and 2016, the company was not perfect. They have come a long way from five years ago, and they are no longer the same company they used to be.

RELATED: Elon Musk Struggles to Keep the Tesla Cybertruck on Schedule