A black former worker at Tesla’s Fremont, Calif., assembly plant has rejected a $15 million payout from the automaker in a lawsuit alleging racial abuse by co-workers. A judge gave the worker, Owen Diaz, two weeks to accept the award, which had been removed from the original jury verdict of $137 million.
Rather than being able to close the book on this one, Diaz’s rejection of the award will lead to a new lawsuit. Apart from this case, Tesla is in the midst of several lawsuits. More recently, two former Tesla employees filed a lawsuit alleging the automaker failed to provide the 60-day notice required by federal law during its recent round of layoffs. Other high-profile lawsuits include the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing’s case against the automaker for, again, racial discrimination and harassment at Tesla’s Fremont factory – a lawsuit that Tesla has filed. criticized as illegal and is trying to thwart .
In a filing in federal court in San Francisco, Diaz’s attorneys said the $15 million award was unfair and would not deter future wrongdoing by Tesla.
“In rejecting the excessive curtailment of the court by seeking a new trial, Mr. Diaz is again asking a jury of his peers to assess what Tesla did to him and provide just compensation for the torrent of racial slurs that were sent to him,” his lawyers said.
U.S. District Judge William Orrick had lowered the jury award in April. The judge also denied Tesla’s request for a new trial, as long as Diaz accepted the lower sentence, so it’s back in court for both sides. It’s a risky business for Diaz, who faces the possibility of even lower compensation from a new trial, not to mention the time and money for all parties that flow from a process. extended call.
“While the damages awarded in this case are extraordinary, judicial reductions in awards are not uncommon, both post-verdict and during the appeals process,” said Helen Rella, head of the Department of employment law from the law firm Wilk Auslander, at TechCrunch. . “The issue in this case, having set aside the reasonableness of the initial $137 million award, now becomes whether the drastic reduction in award to $15 million was reasonable and justifiable in relation to the sustained prejudice.”
Rella said the most likely outcome will be a negotiated resolution between the parties where a private settlement is reached and a payout that falls somewhere in the middle of the initial and reduced award.
Diaz is seeking compensatory and punitive damages from Tesla after alleging co-workers repeatedly called him racial slurs, drew caricatures and swastikas, and generally presented a hostile work environment over the past few years. nine months between 2015 and 2016 where he worked as an elevator operator at the factory.
Tesla didn’t respond to a request for comment, but in the past the automaker has responded to allegations of racial – and let’s not forget sexual – harassment, saying the company has policies in place to prevent and deal with professional misconduct. These sentiments do not appear to have swayed some investors, one of whom filed a complaint last week accusing Tesla CEO Elon Musk and the board of ignoring worker complaints and allowing a toxic workplace culture to flourish.
This article has been updated with information and a quote from Helen Rella, employment lawyer.