The U.S. District Court in San Francisco is set to begin jury selection for a racial discrimination lawsuit filed against Tesla by a former Black employee, Owen Diaz. The lawsuit alleges that Diaz was subjected to racial slurs, racist caricatures, and a hostile work environment while working as an elevator operator at Tesla’s Fremont factory between 2015 and 2016. Diaz is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, claiming that Tesla management did nothing to stop the abuse.
This is not the first time that Diaz has brought this case to court. In June 2022, Diaz and his lawyers rejected a $15 million settlement offered by Tesla after a jury had initially awarded Diaz $137 million in damages. Judge William Orrick reduced the damages to $1.5 million for compensatory and $13.5 million for punitive, stating that the original award was excessive. Diaz’s lawyers rejected the settlement, arguing that it would not deter future misconduct by Tesla.
Diaz is taking a gamble by bringing the case back to court, as he risks receiving even lower damages than the $15 million offered in the previous settlement. However, legal experts predict that Diaz is likely to receive a settlement amount somewhere between $15 million and $137 million.
Tesla has denied any wrongdoing, and the company disbanded its press office in 2020 and could not be reached for comment. This lawsuit is not the only racial discrimination case that Tesla is facing. The California Civil Rights Department has also filed a racial bias lawsuit against the automaker, alleging that the Fremont factory is a racially segregated workplace where Black workers suffer from harassment, unequal pay, and a hostile work environment. A judge recently ruled that the CRD must provide Tesla with details of the investigation it conducted prior to filing suit against the automaker.