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Tesla was ordered to pay $3.2 million in damages to a former employee in a racial discrimination case

Elon Musk in a Tesla Roadster.Elon Musk in a Tesla Roadster.

James Leynse/Corbis via Getty Images

  • Former Tesla employee Owen Diaz was awarded $3.2 million in damages after suing the company.
  • The verdict stems from a 2017 complaint that he faced racist abuse and Tesla failed to prevent it.
  • Diaz had previously refused a $15 million award in the case and filed for this new trial.

In the latest ruling on a longstanding discrimination case against Tesla, former employee Owen Diaz was awarded $3.2 million in damages for racist harassment he faced while working at the electric vehicle manufacturer’s flagship plant.

A jury on Monday handed down the decision, awarding the former construction elevator operator $175,000 in damages for the emotional distress Owens suffered as an employee of Tesla, and $3 million in punative damages meant to deter Tesla from allowing the conduct to happen again.

The award stems from a complaint originally filed in 2017, in which Owens, who is Black, said he regularly heard racial slurs on the Fremont, California factory floor, saw racist graffiti and cartoons written in the company’s bathrooms, and was told to “go back to Africa” by colleagues.

In 2021, Tesla was ordered to pay $137 million in damages over the suit, but the amount was slashed to $15 million by a judge who argued the previous jury had awarded an “unconstitutionally large” sum. In 2022, Owens rejected the $15 million award, instead opting for a new trial — this one, where he was ultimately awarded a lower amount.

During Friday’s closing arguments, lawyers for Owens urged jurors to award him nearly $160 million in damages, Reuters reported, while Tesla has aimed to limit the award to $600,000.

Representatives and lawyers for Tesla did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

In a statement emailed to Insider, Bernard Alexander, a lawyer for Owens, said he has already filed for a mistrial on the most recent decision, “with respect to defense violation of trial orders that improperly introduced evidence and argument, both during trial and closing arguments.”

“The judge took the pre-closing motion under submission before it went to the jury,” Alexander told Insider, adding that the decision was still pending. “We’ll let the dust settle and get the court’s rulings on the defense misconduct.”

Read the original article on Business Insider
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