Tesla is seeking to overturn the decision handed down by a Northern District of California jury, which ordered the automaker to pay out roughly $137 million to Owen Diaz, a former Fremont factory contract employee who claimed he was subjected to racial abuse at work.
A jury in California found Tesla liable for emotional distress and punitive damages on October 4, 2021, with a damages sum of $6.9 million and $130 million, respectively. Employees used racial epithets as they vandalized the plant’s grounds as well as slogans that were racially insensitive, according to Diaz.
On the day of the judgment, Tesla issued a statement regarding Diaz vs. Tesla, stating that three other witnesses besides Diaz reported hearing racial epithets frequently, but that all of the witnesses agreed that some insulting terms were not acceptable in the workplace. They claimed, however, that the majority of the time they perceived the language as being used in a ‘friendly’ manner and by African-American coworkers. In a blog post, Tesla VP of People Valerie Capers Workman stated that Diaz made claims against non-Tesla supervisors and “didn’t make any complaints about the n-word until after he was not offered full-time employment by Tesla – and after he hired an attorney.”
Despite complaints of racial hostility and abuse at the Fremont Factory, according to Capers Workman, Diaz encouraged his kids to work there with him.
“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. We continue to grow and improve in how we address employee concerns. Occasionally, we’ll get it wrong, and when that happens we should be held accountable,” she explained.
Tesla announced in a 10-Q filing with the SEC that it will appeal the decision. Tesla stated:
“On October 4, 2021, in a case captioned Diaz v. Tesla, a jury in the Northern District of California returned a verdict of $136.9 million against Tesla on claims by a former contingent worker that he was subjected to race discrimination while assigned to work at Tesla’s Fremont factory from 2015-2016. The Company does not believe that the facts and law justify the verdict and intends to pursue next steps in post-trial motions and on appeal.”
Prior to this week, it was unclear whether Tesla would appeal the decision, according to the Associated Press.