Tesla awarded new trial against ex-employee who turned down $15M award

Tesla's Fremont Factory. (Credit: peekaystudio/Instagram)

Ex-Tesla employee Owen Diaz will see a new trial against the electric automaker after declining to accept the $15 million he was awarded as a part of a settlement due to claims of racial discrimination at the company’s Fremont Factory.

Judge William Orrick in California on Monday ordered a new trial by granting Tesla’s motion after Diaz declined the $15 million award he won. Judge Orrick initially denied Tesla’s motion for a new trial, as long as Diaz accepted the $15 million award. After declining the $15 million, the motion for a new trial was approved.

Initially, a judge awarded Diaz $137 million. Tesla challenged this amount by filing an appeal stating:

“On October 4, 2021, in a case captioned Diaz v. Tesla, a jury in the Northern District of California returned a verdict of $136.9 million against Tesla on claims by a former contingent worker that he was subjected to race discrimination while assigned to work at Tesla’s Fremont factory from 2015-2016. The Company does not believe that the facts and law justify the verdict and intends to pursue next steps in post-trial motions and on appeal.”

Tesla’s $137M racial discrimination verdict reduced to $15M

The payout amount was adjusted to $15 million as a result.

Diaz’s lawyers declined to accept the $15 million award because they felt it was “unjust” and “undermined Diaz’s constitutional rights,” Reuters said.

In October 2021, Diaz was awarded $137 million after it was proven that he suffered racial abuse while being employed as an elevator operator. The lawsuit alleged that Diaz, who worked at the factory for roughly a year in 2015 and 2016, suffered racial abuse by being called slurs by supervisors and other colleagues daily. The slurs were just one instance of the abuse, however, and reports of racial cartoons being drawn in the factory also circulated in the initial complaint.

Tesla said it would appeal the $137 million payout, arguing that $600,000 is a more appropriate amount. Eventually, $15 million was awarded to Diaz, and on June 7 he was given two weeks to accept his award.

On June 21, Diaz officially rejected the award. “In rejecting the court’s excessive reduction by asking for a new trial, Mr. Diaz is again asking a jury of his peers to evaluate what Tesla did to him and to provide just compensation for the torrent of racist slurs that was directed at him,” his attorneys said.

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Tesla awarded new trial against ex-employee who turned down $15M award
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