On Monday, October 4, 2021, a San Francisco jury found that Owen Diaz, a former Tesla Califonia assembly plant elevator operator, was subjected to racial abuse in the workplace and was initially set to receive $137M in compensatory and punitive damages. But, the award has since been reduced to $15M, and Diaz is demanding a new trial.
At the hands of U.S. District Judge William Orrick, the judge reduced the sum of the award by $122M in April 2022. The former Black elevator operator attempted to appeal the decision. However, Orrick denied Diaz’s motion to appeal, giving Diaz two weeks to decide whether he wanted the reduced amount or to take a shot at another trial instead. In response, the former Tesla employee chose the latter. Diaz’s lawyers made a statement criticizing U.S. District Judge William Orrick and claiming that his decision was “unconstitutional.”
“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 expressed in a statement.
Owen Diaz’s case is just the latest in allegations that Tesla has fostered a racist and hostile workplace. According to NPR, in February 2022, California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing sued Elon Musk’s car company over rampant racism. Tesla allegedly allowed racist language and penalized “Black employees more harshly than white employees and [denied] Black employees career advancement opportunities and equal pay,” which has gone unchecked at their Fremont, Calif. location.