A Black former elevator operator at Tesla’s flagship California assembly plant on Tuesday (June 21), rejected a $15 million award in his lawsuit alleging racial abuse by coworkers The rejection now opens the door for a new trial after a judge slashed a $137 million verdict.
According to NBC News, attorneys for Owen Diaz, who sued Tesla in 2017, turned down the judge’s award in a brief filing in federal court in San Francisco. In a statement, they said the award was unjust and would not deter any possible future misconduct by the electric vehicle company.
“In rejecting the court’s excessive reduction by asking for a new trial, Mr. Diaz is again asking a jury of his peers to evaluate what Tesla did to him and to provide just compensation for the torrent of racist slurs that was directed at him,” Diaz’s lawyers said, according to the news outlet.
U.S. District Judge William Orrick reportedly lowered the jury award, which was one of the largest discrimination lawsuits of its kind, to $15 million in April. He had also denied Tesla’s motion for a new trial, conditioned on Diaz’s acceptance of the lower award.
Diaz’s lawsuit is just one of a series of lawsuits involving alleged widespread race discrimination and sexual harassment at its Fremont, Calif., factory, including one by a California civil rights agency.
Tesla has denied wrongdoing and says workplace misconduct is addressed by policies they have in place.
Diaz accused management of ignoring his complaints of co-workers, including a supervisor, repeatedly using a racial slur toward him. He also endured racist graffiti in the bathroom and derogatory caricatures of Black children in the workplace.
Meanwhile, Tesla is defending itself in court against another Black former worker with similar complaints about managers condoning a racist work environment.
Raina Pierce, who also worked at the Fremont plant, filed her discrimination lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court on April 22 alleging that the company largely ignored her complaints about widespread racism at the facility. According to Pierce, supervisors would sometimes greet employees with “Welcome to the plantation” or “Welcome to the slave house” and supervisors called her the N-word.
State officials have also accused Tesla of racism. California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing in February filed a lawsuit against the company, according to The San Jose Mercury News. It alleges that Tesla’s Fremont facility paid Black workers less than white workers. Black employees were also denied advancements and faced daily racist abuse, the suit claims.