Tesla is planning to appeal the verdict reached by a Northern District of California jury, which required the automaker to pay out nearly $137 million to Owen Diaz, a former Fremont factory contract employee who stated he suffered racial abuse in the production facility.
On October 4, 2021, a jury found Tesla liable for emotional distress and punitive damages, valuing the payout to Diaz at $6.9 million and $130 million, respectively. Diaz said that employees drew racially sensitive logos and graffiti around and near the plant and also used racial slurs in the facility.
Tesla issued a statement regarding the verdict of Diaz vs. Tesla on the day of the judgment, stating that three witnesses apart from Diaz noted that they heard the use of racial slurs regularly, but that all of the witnesses agreed that the use of some derogatory terms was not appropriate in the workplace. However, they also stated that “most of the time they thought the language was used in a ‘friendly’ manner and usually by African-American colleagues. Diaz made complaints to non-Tesla supervisors and “didn’t make any complaints about the n-word until after he was not hired full-time by Tesla – and after he hired an attorney,” Tesla VP of People Valerie Capers Workman wrote in a blog post.
Capers Workman also indicated that while living with his children, Diaz recommended they work at Tesla with him, despite the complaints of racial hostility and harassment at the Fremont Factory.
“While we strongly believe that these facts don’t justify the verdict reached by the jury in San Francisco, we do recognize that in 2015 and 2016 we were not perfect. We’re still not perfect. But we have come a long way from 5 years ago. We continue to grow and improve in how we address employee concerns. Occasionally, we’ll get it wrong, and when that happens we should be held accountable,” she added.
Now, Tesla said in a 10-Q filing with the SEC that it will appeal the decision. The company wrote:
“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.”
It was unclear until now whether Tesla would appeal the decision, according to the Associated Press.