According to Bloomberg, a San Francisco federal court awarded Owen Diaz $130 million in punitive damages and an additional $6.9 million for emotional distress. Diaz was originally hired as an elevator operator for the electric car company in 2015.

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In the lawsuit, Diaz claims he was subject to racial slurs and comments on a daily basis from his co-workers. He also observed racist drawings in the washroom and other areas of the workspace. Diaz added that he wasn’t singled out for this treatment; other Black employees also faced similar mistreatment and hostility.

Diaz was represented by J. Bernard Alexander of Los Angeles’ Alexander Morrison + Fehr LLP as well as Larry Organ of the California Civil Rights Law Group, based in San Anselmo.

His legal team argued that it was only possible for Diaz to file a lawsuit because he didn’t sign Tesla’s mandatory arbitration agreements. CNBC claims the company uses the agreements to force employees with grievances or conflicts to resolve them through their internal arbitration system, which the outlet claims rarely leads to corrective action.

Tesla has responded to the ruling in an official statement to its website in which the company describes its disappointment with the decision. They emphasized that Diaz was not a Tesla employee but rather a contract employee, as were the witnesses used in the lawsuit.

The company said that it does not tolerate racism in the workplace and will continue to work on promoting a positive work culture. It’s unclear if Tesla plans to appeal the decision.

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The lawsuit was originally filed before of former employee Marcus Vaughn, but now over 100 Black individuals who used to work at Tesla between 2016 and 2017 are participating.

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The lawsuit specifically mentions actions committed by Tesla’s founder, Elon Musk, including an email he sent out to the company in which he addresses complaints of racist and toxic work culture. In the email, while he said those who are being a “jerk” should apologize, he added there’s an equal responsibility on the other person to accept the apology.

“In fairness, if someone is a jerk to you, but sincerely apologizes, it is important to be thick-skinned and accept that apology,” Elon wrote in the email. The case is ongoing.

Sources: Bloomberg, CNBC, CNBC, Tesla,

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