San Francisco Jury Orders Tesla to Pay $136.9 Million in Race Discrimination Case

If you have been the victim of race discrimination at your workplace here in California, you have the right to sue your employer. You have the same right for any type of discrimination. Here in the Golden State, employers may not discriminate against their workers on any basis. If you think you have been the victim of discrimination, you should contact experienced anti-discrimination lawyers like the ones at Guardian Litigation Group.

Employers can be severely punished. As a case in point, a black man sued Tesla for racial discrimination in federal court and was recently ordered by a San Francisco to $136.9 million. This is one of the largest verdicts ever awarded to a single plaintiff. The actual damages awarded by the jury were about $6 million and much of the remainder of the award was for punitive damages. Among the purposes of punitive damages is to punish a defendant for egregious and particularly offensive behavior and deter future bad behavior. And, most certainly, Tesla has “felt the pain” of the jury’s verdict.

The plaintiff – Owen Diaz – was a Black elevator operator at Tesla’s plant in Fremont, California, hired by Tesla through a staffing agency. Diaz worked at the Fremont factory for about a year between 2015 and 2016. Diaz testified at trial that one of his supervisors and several other co-workers repeatedly referred to him using racial slurs. He also testified that he was told to “go back to Africa,” that there was racist graffiti — like swastikas — in the restrooms, that drawings of derogatory caricatures of Black children had been left around the factory and that a racist drawing had been left in his workspace. Diaz repeatedly complained to his supervisors and appropriate Human Resources personnel. But, according to Diaz, Tesla management did little or nothing to address the discrimination.

Diaz sued for both specific racial discrimination (for race-based conduct specifically directed at him) and for hostile workplace discrimination (for the race-hostile workplace). Employers have an obligation to prevent actual person-specific discrimination and also to prevent a hostile workplace. Of course, at trial, Tesla disputed the facts and argued that it had, in fact, addressed Diaz’s specific complaint. However, as noted, the jury disagreed with sending an important message to Tesla and other employers who may be tolerating racial discrimination.

One other important aspect of the case is that it demonstrates that the anti-discrimination laws in California protect ALL workers including contractors, like Diaz, who are employed through staffing agencies.

Of course, Tesla has appealed the verdict and is seeking a reduction of the award. But, whatever the outcome of the appeal, Tesla has been forced to address the racial discrimination at the Fremont factory and the plaintiff’s rights have been vindicated.

The case should serve as a warning to Tesla — and other employers. It should be noted that Tesla faces other discrimination cases here in California.

Contact Experienced California Employment Discrimination and Harassment Attorneys

For more information or if you have been the victim of employment discrimination and/or harassment, contact our Irvine discrimination attorneys at Guardian Litigation Group. We have the tools and legal experience necessary to protect you and bring your employer to justice. Our Mission is to provide unparalleled legal services for our clients. We can be reached via our contact page or by phone at (949) 444-5474.