Saturday, December 10, 2022

Former Tesla worker denied $15M payout in race bias lawsuit

A black former elevator operator at Tesla’s flagship California assembly plant on Tuesday rejected a $15 million award in his lawsuit alleging racial abuse by coworkers, quashing a $137 million jury decision by a judge. After that the door was opened for a new test.

Lawyers for Owen Diaz, who sued Tesla in 2017, turned down the judge’s award in a brief filing in federal court in San Francisco. He said in a statement that the award was unjust and will not prevent Tesla’s future misconduct.

“Dismissing the court’s extreme shortfall by asking for a new trial, Mr. Diaz is again asking a jury of his peers to evaluate what Tesla did to him and the torrent of racist abuse directed at him.” To provide fair compensation,” his lawyers said.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

US District Judge William Orrick in April reduced the jury award to $15 million, the largest of its kind in a discrimination trial. He also rejected Tesla’s offer for a new test, based on Diaz’s acceptance of the lower prize.

Tesla Plant In Fremont, Calif.
Tesla is facing a series of lawsuits related to alleged widespread race discrimination and sexual harassment at its Fremont, Calif., factory.
Associated Press

Earlier this month the judge declined Diaz’s motion for permission to appeal that ruling and gave her two weeks to accept the lower award or agree to a new trial.

Tesla is facing a series of lawsuits involving alleged widespread race discrimination and sexual harassment at its Fremont, California factory, including one from a California civil rights agency.

Last week, a Tesla shareholder filed a lawsuit accusing the company’s chief executive officer, Elon Musk, and the board of directors of neglecting workers’ complaints and promoting a toxic workplace culture.

Tesla denies wrongdoing and says it has policies in place to prevent and address workplace malpractice.

Diaz alleged that her colleagues and a supervisor subjected her to a hostile work environment that included abuses, caricatures and swastikas during her nine months working at the Fremont plant in 2015 and 2016.

A jury last October awarded Diaz $6.9 million in damages and $130 million in punitive damages, but in April Orrick said the number was excessive.

Diaz’s lawyers said in their statement Tuesday that Orrick’s ruling exposed the systemic bias that federal judges have against juries, which in turn violates the constitutional rights plaintiffs have to be tried by jury.

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