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Former Tesla worker awarded $137 million in racial discrimination lawsuit

Owen Diaz, a contract employee who worked as an elevator operator, said he faced a “hostile work environment” in the lawsuit.

TEXAS, USA — A former Tesla worker was awarded $137 million this week in a racial discrimination lawsuit against the company.

Good Morning America reported that Owen Diaz, a contract employee who worked as an elevator operator, said he faced a “hostile work environment” in the lawsuit. Diaz started at Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, in 2015 and quit less than a year later.

In a statement on its website, Tesla said Diaz never worked for Tesla but worked for Citistaff, a staffing agency. He was a contract employee.

The lawsuit said Diaz suffered racist abuse while working at Tesla. Examples included seeing swastikas and racist graffiti in the bathroom, being told to “go back to Africa” and hearing ethnic slurs routinely, according to GMA.

A San Francisco Federal Court ruled that Tesla must pay Diaz $130 million in punitive damages and $7 million in emotional abuse.

"They decided not to follow through," Diaz told GMA. "They decided to kill investigations. You know, you can't keep treating workers like this."

Tesla’s VP of People, Valerie Capers Workman, wrote in a note to employees that Diaz made three complaints to his "non-Tesla supervisors" during his time at Tesla. The note, which is available on Tesla’s website, said the company fired two contractors and suspended one following the complaints.  

“While we strongly believe that these facts don’t justify the verdict reached by the jury in San Francisco, we do recognize that in 2015 and 2016 we were not perfect,” Capers Workman wrote. “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. Occasionally, we’ll get it wrong, and when that happens we should be held accountable.”


Since 2016, Capers Workman said Tesla has created an Employee Relations team, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion team, and a comprehensive Employee Handbook.

Elon Musk, founder and CEO of Tesla, is currently building a Tesla Gigafactory in Travis County. Tesla was hiring for over 300 open positions at the Gigafactory last month.

Musk's presence in Texas continues with his companies SpaceX, Neuralink and The Boring Company. He lives in a tiny house in Boca Chica near SpaceX’s Starbase facility.


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