A former Tesla employee who filed a racial abuse lawsuit against the electric-automobile manufacturer has been given two weeks to accept a $15 million payout awarded to him. According to TechCrunch, a federal judge gave Owen Diaz the ultimatum on June 7.
A San Francisco court in October last year initially ordered Tesla Inc. to pay Diaz nearly $137 million after he filed a lawsuit alleging racial harassment and a hostile working environment at the company’s San Francisco Bay Area factory, Face2Face Africa reported at the time. Diaz was awarded $6.9 million in compensatory damages and $130 million in punitive damages.
But the payout was reduced to $15 million after Tesla appealed the ruling, arguing that Diaz was supposed to receive only $600,000. San Francisco U.S. district judge William Orrick ultimately slashed the compensatory and punitive damages to $1.5 million and 13.5 million respectively.
Orrick, in his June 7 order, ruled that he could not establish a controlling question of law to support a prompt appeal of the reduced payout, TechCrunch reported. He also said he was convinced the initial amount the jury awarded to Diaz was over the top, and giving the green light for a prompt appeal “would further delay resolution of a case that is already five years old.”
Diaz was employed as a contracted elevator operator at Tesla’s Fremont, California factory for nine months. That was between 2015 and 2016. And per the lawsuit, Diaz alleged he was subjected to harassment and “daily racist epithets” during his time at the facility. Diaz alleged the employees at the plant used racist epithets including the “N-word.”
Diaz also alleged swastikas and racist graffiti were drawn on company property by employees, adding that supervisors did not put in the effort to bring the abuse to an end. “Tesla’s progressive image was a façade papering over its regressive, demeaning treatment of African-American employees,” the lawsuit stated.
Tesla is also facing another lawsuit from California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). The DFEH accuses the company of subjecting its Black Fremont factory workers to racism and harassment. But Tesla in April filed a complaint against the DFEH, alleging the department was overstepping its legal boundaries by suing them, Tech Crunch reported.