A Black man who has served as a factory worker at Tesla’s plant in Fremont was awarded $136.9 million by a federal court jury on Monday.
The former worker complained that he has received racial harassment, from being called out in racist tags, abused, and shown with racist cartoons while he was employed at the company, the plaintiff and his lawyers said.
The San Francisco jury, following a week’s trial and deliberation that lasted for a three-and-a-half-hour, has found the electric car company’s violation against the right to racially hostile-free workplace of Owen Diaz.
California Civil Rights Law Group attorney Larry Organ said Diaz was granted $130 million in punitive damages and another $6.9 million for emotional distress.
The 53-year-old former worker said it was only judgment.
“They’re putting Elon Musk on notice to clean up his factory,” he said, as he referred to the company’s billionaire CEO. “They heard the things we had endured.”
No immediate comment was released by the company and its attorney.
The verdict can be overturned or lessened by Tesla by asking U.S. District Judge William Orrick III. Apart from this, they could also petition higher courts.
The company, in court filings, has not admitted to its failure of having its African American workers protected. It said it does not waver to solve concerns on racial abuse at the factory.
Furthermore, Tesla denied having any idea of racist actions claimed by Diaz.
Attorneys said that the Palo Alto-based company is also slammed with a class-action discrimination lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court to represent 2, 000 to 3, 000 workers.
In June 2015, Diaz kicked off his job at Tesla, where he was deployed by a staffing company.
Defending the lawsuit, Tesla said Diaz was not their employee but failed in the argument.
Supervisors and other co-workers have called Diaz the “n-word” at least 30 times before he voluntarily exited the employment in 2016. The claim was backed by other Black employees.
“One of the witnesses said they wiped feces on his golf cart,” Diaz said. “A supervisor sent over images of pickaninnies.”
Apart from him, his son who is also employed in the plant has suffered racial labels as well as a supervisor’s curse. “My son had to watch his father be broken. … It mentally traumatized my son,” said Diaz, who now works as an AC Transit bus driver, San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Organ said Diaz’ son Demetric also filed a suit against the company. He refused to provide details but said the case has been fixed. “I think (the verdict) will help change the dynamic so that hopefully corporate America wakes up and takes race harassment seriously,” the attorney said.