Company subjected employee to racially hostile work environment, jury finds
Bernard Alexander, one of his lawyers during the trial, said he was regularly called a racist adjective at work, where he saw racist images and language written in bathrooms and elsewhere. The factory, located in the San Francisco Bay Area, was Tesla’s only auto assembly plant at the time, employing about 10,000 people.
Mr Diaz, 53, held his head in his hands after the jury’s verdict was read. He described the decision as a burden on his shoulders. The trial lasted just over a week.
“It sheds light on what is happening inside Tesla’s factory,” he said. “Elon Musk, you’ve been served notice. Clean up that factory.”
Tracy Kennedy, a Tesla attorney, said in her closing argument that there is no evidence that a Tesla employee harassed Mr. Diaz and that the company should not be held liable for the treatment of Mr. Diaz’s allegation. Many of the workers at Tesla’s factory are contractors employed through employee agencies.
Tesla’s vice president of people, Valerie Kepers Workman, said in an email to employees on Monday that when Diaz complained of harassment, the company made sure its staffing agencies took action.
“While we strongly believe that these facts do not justify the decision given by the jury in San Francisco, we believe that in 2015 and 2016 we were not perfect,” she said in the note, which was Reprinted on Tesla’s blog.
Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the decision or any plans to appeal.
The trial focused on three claims: that Tesla subjected Mr. Diaz to a racially hostile work environment; that the company failed to prevent him from being racially harassed; and that it was negligent to supervise or retain the employee, causing Mr. Diaz to suffer.
Tesla denied in the court filing that it was aware of the alleged discriminatory and harassing behavior and did not take action to protect black employees. Ms Kennedy urged the jury to find in Tesla’s favor on each claim.
The jury, after nearly four hours of deliberation, found all claims in Diaz’s favor and ordered Tesla to pay Diaz $6.9 million in compensatory damages and $13 million in punitive damages.
This is the second time in recent months that the electric-automaker has been held liable in a case involving claims of caste-based harassment or discrimination.
Another black former Tesla worker, Melvin Berry, won a $1 million judgment in May after a mediator found he had been called racial slurs by his supervisors and was subject to other racist conduct at the Fremont factory. The arbitrator said in his order that Tesla was obliged to investigate and prevent racial discrimination and had failed to do so.
Tesla said that none of the actions taken by the company were on a racial basis, pursuant to the order.
Mr Diaz, who was employed by a staffing agency, did not sign an arbitration agreement, allowing his case to proceed for hearing. His lawyers said they believe this is the first case involving alleged harassment or discrimination to reach trial at Tesla.
Tesla is facing similar claims in California state court, where former Tesla assembly worker Marcus Vaughan filed suit, alleging that Tesla created an intimidating, hostile, and offensive work environment for black workers. Make. He and the other plaintiffs are seeking class certification.
Tesla has denied the claims, court records show. in a blog post After Mr Vaughan filed his lawsuit in 2017, Tesla said, “It is not humanly possible to stop all bad conduct, but we will do our best to make it as close to zero as possible.”
An investor proposal for consideration at Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting on Thursday calls on the board to prepare a report to oversee how the company’s use of mandated arbitration affects employees and corporate culture. Tesla’s board has urged investors to vote against the proposal. A similar measure failed last year.
Rebecca Elliot rebecc[email protected] Feather