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A federal judge has informed former elevator operator at Tesla, Owen Diaz, that he has just two weeks to decide whether he wants to accept $15 million in damages over racial abuse.
Tesla was ordered to pay Diaz $137 million for failing to act when the racial abuse and discrimination were brought to their attention at Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California.
Last month, the judgment was significantly reduced to $15 million after Tesla challenged the verdict. Tesla argued that they should only have to pay Diaz $600,000. However, U.S. district judge William Orrick in San Francisco reduced the compensatory damages from $6.9 million to $1.5 million. The punitive damages were downsized from $130 million to $13.5 million.
“That’s the maximum,” Larry Organ, Diaz’s lawyer, told NPR at the time. “It wasn’t because [the judge] found anything wrong with what Mr. Diaz said or that Mr. Diaz wasn’t injured or anything like that. It’s just based on a comparison.”
During the trial, Diaz testified that he was subjected to “daily racist epithets.” Not only was he called the n-word by a supervisor, but he was also bombarded with racist graffiti and cartoons in his workspace and the toilets. His Tesla colleagues also told him to “go back to Africa.”
The lawsuit came months after California’s civil rights agency sued Tesla for operating what it describes as a “racially segregated workplace.”
The California Department of Fair Employment filed the lawsuit and Housing (DFEH) filed the lawsuit.
“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,” DFEH director Kevin Kish said in a statement.
Tesla has a long way to go to become a racially diverse company. Black workers make up 10% of its workforce and 4% of its leadership, according to a 2020 report.