A Black former worker at Tesla’s California assembly plant turned down a $15 million settlement after a judge chopped a $137 million jury verdict. Owen Diaz’s decision to reject the settlement opens the door for a new trial.
Diaz’s lawyer said the judge’s award was unfair and did not hold Tesla accountable for their actions.
“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 were directed at him,” his lawyers told Reuters.
Owen Diaz sued Tesla in 2017 after he was allegedly racially abused by multiple co-workers. According to the suit, Diaz claims his colleagues, as well as a supervisor, created a hostile work environment that was racially charged.
According to Bloomberg Equality, Owen Diaz said while he worked at Tesla, his co-workers taunted him with racial slurs, racial graffiti, and suggestions that he “go back to Africa.”
Diaz reportedly testified in court that, due to the racist treatment he received, he suffered “sleepless nights” and other ailments affecting his health.
“Some days I would just sit on my stairs and cry,” he said, Bloomberg reported.
In October 2020, Diaz won his suit and a jury of his peers awarded him $6.9 million in compensatory damages and $130 million in punitive damages. But in April, U.S. District Judge William Orrick rejected the jury’s initial settlement, stating the numbers were excessive, then offered Diaz $15 million instead.
Earlier this month, Judge Orrick denied Diaz’s motion to appeal the ruling and gave Diaz a two-week deadline to agree to the lowered amount or be awarded a new trial.
“Orrick’s decision highlighted systemic bias that federal judges have against juries, which in turn violates the constitutional rights plaintiffs have to a trial by jury,” Diaz’s lawyers said in a statement.
It’s no secret that Tesla has some issues with discrimination in the workplace. The company faces multiple lawsuits which allege racial discrimination, as well as sexual harassment. One of the company’s shareholders also recently filed a lawsuit against Tesla’s chief executive, Elon Musk, and other board of directors for ignoring worker complaints and fostering a toxic work environment.