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Black Ex-Tesla Employee Rejects $15 Million Payout For Racial Discrimination Lawsuit

Owen Diaz, a Black ex-employee of Tesla, was awarded a $15 million payout for a racial discrimination lawsuit he levied against the company.
Owen Diaz, a Black ex-employee of Tesla, was awarded a $15 million payout for a racial discrimination lawsuit he levied against the company.
JasonDoiy via Getty Images

A Black ex-employee of Tesla has decided to reject a $15 million payout for a racial discrimination lawsuit he levied against the company in 2017.

Owen Diaz, who worked at Tesla’s Fremont, California, automotive plant for nine months between 2015 and 2016, alleges that his co-workers spewed racial slurs at him and drew swastikas and the “N-word” on bathroom walls.

In April, U.S. District Judge William Orrick ruled in favor of Diaz, holding Tesla responsible for failing to provide a safe and neutral work environment. However, the judge slashed the original $137 million payout down to $15 million, saying the original amount was “unconstitutionally large.”

Diaz’s lawyer Bernard Alexander told Reuters at the time that Diaz planned to appeal the $15 million payout.

“The award of $15 million is substantial but does not come close to reflecting the harm caused to Mr. Diaz, or the reprehensibility of Tesla’s conduct,” Alexander said.

Earlier this month, Orrick told Diaz he had two weeks to either accept or reject the payout. Diaz’s decision to reject it could lead to a new trial over Tesla’s racial discrimination.

A 2018 New York Times investigation into Tesla’s alleged discriminatory work culture found that Black workers at the Fremont factory faced threats from fellow employees, demeaning assignments and barriers that prevented them from advancing within the company.

At the time of that report, Tesla denied the Times’ findings and told the paper there was no evidence to support “a pattern of discrimination and harassment.”

Nevertheless, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit against Tesla in February, citing years of “rampant racism” at the Fremont factory.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk attracted additional scrutiny in June, amid the coronavirus pandemic, for telling employees in a leaked email that they must work in the office a minimum of 40 hours per week or risk being fired.

A screenshot of Elon Musk's email to Tesla employees.
A screenshot of Elon Musk’s email to Tesla employees.
Tesla

“Everyone at Tesla is required to spend a minimum of 40 hours in the office per week,” Musk began. “Moreover, the office must be where your actual colleagues are located, not some remote pseudo office. If you don’t show up, we will assume you have resigned.”

Jessica Barraza, a Tesla employee, additionally filed a lawsuit against the company in November 2021 alleging that Tesla fostered an environment of sexual harassment.

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