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Tesla to Pay $137m to Black Employee Who Sued for Racial Discrimination

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Tesla must pay a former Black employee $137 million over claims that he was subjected to racial discrimination during his time with the company.

Owen Diaz worked as a contract elevator operator at Tesla’s factory in Fremont, Calif., from 2015 to 2016. In his lawsuit, Diaz claimed that he and other Black employees were bombarded with racial slurs, including the N-word. He says they were even told to “go back to Africa.”

Diaz also alleged that employees had drawn swastikas, scratched a racial epithet in a bathroom stall and left drawings of denigrating caricatures of Black children around the factory. In his lawsuit, Diaz referred to his working environment as “a scene straight from the Jim Crow era.”

When he did complain to Tesla and the contracting companies Citistaff and nextSource — nothing was done to stop it.

“I’m gratified that the jury saw the truth and that they sent a message to Tesla to clean up its workplace,” Larry Organ, one of Diaz’s attorneys, told NPR. “Owen and I both hope that this sends a message to corporate America to look at your workplace and, if there are problems there, take proactive measures to protect employees against racist conduct,” Organ added. “It is happening, and we need to do something about it.”

In 2018, Tesla refuted Diza’s claims, saying there was no evidence to support “a pattern of discrimination and harassment,” noting that “in a company the size of a small city, there will at times be claims of bad behavior,” real or false per The New York Times.

Three years later, the company says it has “come a long way.”

“While we strongly believe that these facts don’t justify the verdict reached by the jury in San Francisco, we do recognize that in 2015 and 2016, we were not perfect. We’re still not perfect. But we have come a long way from 5 years ago,” Workman said. “The Tesla of 2015 and 2016 (when Mr. Diaz worked in the Fremont factory) is not the same as the Tesla of today,” she added.

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