Ex-Tesla Worker Rejects $15 Million Settlement for Racial Discrimination: Asks for More

Tesla’s California factory has several lawsuits to settle.

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Among the various labor demands that Tesla must attend to, yesterday Reuters revealed that Owen Diaz, a former African-American elevator operator who worked at the Tesla assembly plant in California, rejected $15 million in damages on Tuesday.

The lawsuit was filed on the grounds that he suffered racial abuse from his co-workers. And with the rejection he opened the possibility of a new trial after a judge trimmed a $137 million jury verdict.

Diaz’s attorneys rejected the judge’s ruling in federal court in San Francisco, arguing that the figure was unfair and would not deter future misconduct by Tesla.

“Rejecting the excessive reduction of the court by asking for a new trial, Mr. Diaz again asks a jury of his peers to evaluate what Tesla did to him and that provide fair compensation for the torrent of racist slurs directed at you“, the lawyers pointed out.

The lawsuit was filed in 2017 and the federal district judge William Orrick reduced the jury award in April, which was one of the largest awarded for discrimination.n, to $15 million dollars. He had also denied Tesla’s motion for a new trial, conditional on the former elevator operator accepting the posted figure.

In early June, the judge rejected Díaz’s request for permission to appeal the ruling and gave him two weeks to accept compensation or agree to a new trial.

For its part, Tesla ensures that it has guidelines to prevent and deal with misconduct in the workplace. Nevertheless, Elon Musk’s company accumulates several lawsuits by former workers who accuse the company of allowing sexual harassment, racism and promoting a toxic work culture.

Díaz accuses that his colleagues and a boss subjected him to a hostile work environment that included insults, humiliations, caricatures and swastikas in the nine months he worked for Tesla between 2015 and 2016.

In October a jury had awarded Díaz $6.9 million in compensatory damages and $130 million in punitive damagesbut for Judge Orrick the figures were excessive.

Lawyers representing Diaz commented that Orrick’s decision is permeated by a systemic bias that federal judges have against juries, which violates plaintiffs’ constitutional rights in a jury trial.

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