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Jury Awards $137 Million to Black Tesla Employee for Race Discrimination

2021-11-08

Jury took four hour of deliberation to come up with the emotional distress and punitive damages award

On October 4, 2021, a San Francisco federal court jury awarded $137 million to a Black former contract elevator operator, Owen Diaz, who worked for approximately one year before quitting his employment in 2016.  Diaz testified that Tesla employees frequently used the “n-word” and that they had drawn swastikas and nooses as well as racially disparaging images in the workplace.  Tesla’s attorney countered by saying that Diaz’ testimony was not supporting by the evidence and “simply doesn’t make sense” since Diaz had encouraged his son and daughter to work for the company.   Tesla representatives also said that “the Tesla of 2015 and 2016 is not the same as the Tesla of today.”

However, after only four hours of deliberation, the jury awarded Diaz $6.9 million in emotional distress damages and $130 million in punitive damages.  David Oppenheimer, clinical professor of law at Berkeley Law said “I believe that’s the largest verdict is an individual race discrimination in employment case.”  Two months prior to this award, another former Black employee, Melvin Berry, won a $1 million award from an arbitrator after making allegations of racial harassment.   Both plaintiffs used the same lawyer.

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