Former Tesla employee awarded $3.2 million in retrial of racial discrimination lawsuit, down from original $137 million verdict

Tesla has been ordered by a federal jury in San Francisco to pay $3.2 million to Owen Diaz, a former Black employee who won a racial harassment lawsuit against the company. Diaz was originally awarded $137 million by a jury in the first case, however that amount was later reduced by a judge to $15 million. Diaz rejected the lowered amount last year, leading to the retrial.

The verdict came after a week-long retrial of Diaz’s 2017 lawsuit, who had accused Tesla of failing to act when he repeatedly complained to managers that employees at the Fremont, California factory frequently used racist slurs and scrawled swastikas, racist caricatures, and epithets on walls and work areas.

The jury on Monday awarded Diaz $175,000 in damages for emotional distress and $3 million in punitive damages designed to punish unlawful conduct and deter it in the future. The company has said it does not tolerate workplace discrimination and takes worker complaints seriously.

However, the amount could be cut because punitive damages are typically capped at no more than nine times the amount of damages for emotional distress and other injuries, Saba said. The punitive damages awarded by the jury on Monday were nearly 20 times the damages for emotional distress, according to Ryan Saba, a Los Angeles-based employment lawyer.

“I expect both sides will appeal,” Saba said. “This case is far from over.” (via Reuters)

Responding to the verdict CEO Elon Musk in a tweet said “the verdict would’ve been zero” if the judge had allowed Tesla to introduce new evidence in the retrial. However, Musk added the “jury did the best they could with the information they had. I respect the decision.”

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