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Civil Rights

Federal Judge Orders New Damages Trial in Tesla Race Discrimination Case

— June 28, 2022

The plaintiff, a former Tesla elevator contractor, refused to accept the judge’s decision to reduce his jury compensation from $137 million to $15 million.

A federal judge has ordered a new trial to decide the amount of damages Tesla owes a Black former contractor who accused the automotive company of rampant racial discrimination.

According to Reuters, U.S. District Judge William Orrick granted Tesla’s motion for a new trial a week after plaintiff Owen Diaz said he would not accept the court’s reduced award.

“In rejecting the court’s excessive reduction by asking for a new trial, Mr. Diaz is again asking a jury of his peers to evaluate what Tesla did to him and to provide just compensation for the torrent of racist slurs that was directed at him,” his lawyers said in a statement.

As has reported before, Diaz—a former elevator contractor—alleged that Tesla’s Fremont factory was a hotbed of racism.

In his initial lawsuit, Diaz claimed that he regularly overheard White managers, employees, and staffers use racial slurs, including the “n-word.” Diaz also said that nooses were reported inside the facility, along with degrading graffiti and drawings.

While Diaz maintained that he reported the alleged abuse to both Tesla and his staffing agency, neither company responded with appropriate action.

Gavel on copy of lawsuit; image by Wirestock, via
Gavel on copy of lawsuit; image by Wirestock, via

Last October, a jury awarded Diaz nearly $137 million—among the largest discrimination verdicts in any case involving a single complainant.

However, Orrick found the award “excessive” and reduced Diaz’s net compensation to $15 million.

Orrick also dismissed Diaz’s petition to appeal the ruling, telling the former Tesla contractor that he had two weeks to either accept the reduced award or consent to a new trial.

Attorneys for Diaz have said that the lower amount is unfair, and that Orrick effectively undermined their client’s rights to a jury trial.

“We are hopeful that a new jury will see the evidence in a similar light to the first jury and that Mr. Diaz will get the justice the jury system is supposed to provide to him,” attorney Lawrence Organ said in a statement to Reuters.

While Orrick has yet to set a date for the retrial, the judge scheduled a conference in the second week of July.

Tesla, notes NBC News, is facing an array of other racial discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuits, one of which was filed by a California state civil rights agency.

Tesla and its founder, Elon Musk, are also contending with an unusual shareholder lawsuit, in which the plaintiff accuses Musk and his holdings of aggressively marketing Dogecoin, a “meme” cryptocurrency that showed some initial promise before collapsing and losing most of its value.


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