US federal court orders Tesla to pay US$137 million to former employee over racism abuse

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United States: Tesla has been ordered by a jury at the federal court in San Francisco to pay former black employees US$137 million over racism.

According to the court filing, Owen Diaz was hired via a staffing agency as an ‘elevator operator’ at the electric vehicle maker’s Fremont factory between June 2015 and July 2016. During that time, he went through racist abuse and a hostile work environment.

In his lawsuit that was filed in 2017, Owen highlighted that African-American employees at the factory, where his son also worked, were subjected to racist epithets and derogatory imagery on a daily basis.

Civil rights attorney – Larry Organ cited that, “They awarded an amount that could be a wake-up call for American corporations and as well as a lesson for them to not engage in racist conduct and don’t allow racist conduct to continue.”

Diaz claimed that, despite complaints to supervisors, Tesla took no action over the matter. The jury on Monday awarded Diaz US$130 million in punitive damages and US$6.9 million for emotional distress, Organ confirmed.

“Tesla’s progressive image was a ‘facade papering’ over its regressive, demeaning treatment of African-American employees,” the court further filing noted.

Following the verdict, Tesla issued a blog post by the human resources vice president – Valerie Capers Workman, which it stated had been distributed to employees.

Workman cited that the company had responded to Diaz’s complaints by firing two contractors and suspending a third. The workman also highlighted that Tesla made changes since Diaz worked at the company, adding a diversity team and an employee relations team committed to investigating employee complaints.

Workman further noted, “While we strongly believe that these facts do not support the verdict reached by the jury in – San Francisco, we do recognize that in the year 2015 and 2016, we were not perfect.”

“We are still not perfect, but we have come a long way from five years ago. We continue to grow & improve in how we address employee concerns. Occasionally, we will get it wrong, and when that happens, we should be held accountable,” following the statement, the workman added.