Jury Awards Former Tesla Employee $136 Million over Claims of Racially Hostile Work Environment

Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveils the new Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010. The new Tesla factory is the former NUMMI plant. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

Tesla has been ordered to pay more than $136 million in damages to a black former worker after a federal jury found that Elon Musk’s company had subjected the employee to a racially hostile work environment and failed to take appropriate steps to prevent him from being harassed.

On Monday, the jury awarded more than $130 million in damages to Owen Diaz, who worked as an elevator operator at Tesla’s Fremont, California, factory in 2015 and 2016, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.

SUN VALLEY, ID - JULY 07: Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX, CEO and product architect of Tesla Motors, and chairman of SolarCity, attends the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference on July 7, 2015 in Sun Valley, Idaho. Many of the world's wealthiest and most powerful business people from media, finance, and technology attend the annual week-long conference which is in its 33rd year. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

SUN VALLEY, ID – JULY 07: Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX, CEO and product architect of Tesla Motors, and chairman of SolarCity, attends the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference on July 7, 2015 in Sun Valley, Idaho. Many of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful business people from media, finance, and technology attend the annual week-long conference which is in its 33rd year. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Elon Musk shades his eyes in front of a Tesla

Elon Musk shades his eyes in front of a Tesla (Maja Hitij /Getty)

Diaz was reportedly called racial epithets on a regular basis at work, where he saw racist images and language written in the bathroom and in other locations at the factory, said Bernard Alexander, one of his attorneys.

Meanwhile, Tracey Kennedy, an attorney for Tesla, said there was no evidence that a Tesla employee harassed Diaz, and that the company shouldn’t be held liable for his allegations.

But after roughly three hours of deliberation, the jury ordered Tesla to pay Diaz $6.9 million in compensatory damages and $130 million in punitive damages.

Diaz reportedly held his head in his hands after hearing the verdict and referred to the Jury’s more than $136 million decision as a weight off his shoulders.

“It shines a light on what’s going on inside of Tesla’s factory,” Diaz said. “Elon Musk, you’ve been put on notice. Clean that factory up.”

This is also reportedly Tesla’s second time in recent months being found liable in a case involving allegations of racial harassment or discrimination — behavior in which Tesla allegedly failed to prevent from continuing.

In May, Melvin Berry — another black former Tesla employee from the Fremont factory — won a $1 million judgment after an arbitrator found he was called racial slurs by his supervisors and subjected to other racial conduct, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Now, Tesla is reportedly facing a similar claim in another California court, where former Tesla assembly worker Marcus Vaughn is alleging the electric vehicle maker created an intimidating, hostile, and offensive work environment for black workers.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Facebook and Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.

.

Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.