A California federal jury awarded $136.9 million to a black former Tesla subcontractor on October 4th, 2021. The jury found that he was subjected to a racially hostile work environment at the Northern California factory and that the company was not only responsible for the ensuing harm but failed to correct the behavior after multiple complaints.
After a short four hours of deliberations, the jury determined that Tesla Inc. subjected former subcontractor Owen Diaz to a racially hostile work environment and that Tesla was his in fact his joint employer. The jury also found that the automaker had failed to take reasonable steps necessary to prevent the harassment and that Diaz was harmed by Tesla’s negligent supervision or continued employment of a harassing coworker.
Diaz was awarded $6.9 million in compensatory damages - $4.5 million for past emotional distress and $2.4 million for future emotional distress. The jury also found that Tesla’s conduct was malicious, oppressive, or reckless, awarding an additional $130 million in punitive damages “to get Tesla’s attention” as told by Diaz’s attorney J. Bernard Alexander.
Diaz testified that he suffered emotional distress after he and his son were called the N-word by coworkers and supervisors and that complaints to management failed to end the harassment. It was furthered revealed in the trial that the jury heard testimony from several former Tesla subcontractors who said they heard the N-word used daily at the factory.
Diaz’s attorney further claimed that Tesla “basically only cares about the number of cars being generated and doesn’t care about the atmosphere in which the employees are working.” Diaz further claims that Tesla used staffing companies so that they can say their contract employees were not direct Tesla employees, and that was just a dodge in liability.
Hopefully the substantial verdict will send a message to Tesla and similar companies that have failed to act against discrimination. The verdict will hopefully send a clear message that “Tesla is responsible” for harassment endured by its subcontractors.