On Monday, April 3, 2023, a San Francisco federal jury awarded a former black employee $3.2 million dollars against Tesla, Inc.  The employee, Owen Diaz, who worked for Tesla for less than one year, alleged he frequently heard racial slurs, including the N-word, saw swastikas, racist caricatures and epithets written on the walls in the workplace.  Through his employment attorneys and his Complaint, Mr. Diaz alleged his complaints to managers went unanswered and that he suffered emotional distress as a result of the racially hostile work environment.

This is the not the first verdict Mr. Diaz has been awarded against Tesla.  In 2021, a different jury awarded Mr. Diaz $137 million dollars in connection with his claims.  However, a federal judge ruled the verdict was excessive and lowered the award to $15 million.  When Mr. Diaz rejected the reduced award, he was ordered to go forward with a new trial which resulted in the latest verdict.

Previous Race Discrimination Litigation

Tesla has previously faced similar allegations of race discrimination out of its Fremont plant.  There is currently a pending class action brought on behalf of black employees as well as another case brought by the California Civil Rights Department.  Tesla denies any wrongdoing in connection with all of the actions.

Following the original verdict of $137 million, Tesla’s former Vice President of People, Valerie Capers Workman, stated in a blog post on behalf of Tesla, “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.”

Hostile Work Environment

Mr. Diaz’s claim will likely continue on for some time as both sides are expected to appeal.  For harassment which creates a hostile work environment to be unlawful, it has to be based on a protected category, characteristic, or activity, which in California, include but are not limited to race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender and gender identity, requesting a reasonable accommodation or requesting family medical leave.

If you believe you have been subjected to a hostile work environment based on a protected category, characteristic or activity, you should promptly speak with an employment attorney in Orange County.  The attorneys at Ares Law Group are highly experienced in helping California employees who have suffered harassment, discrimination, and retaliation in the workplace (both traditional and remote).  Consultations are always free.