Tesla is finding out just how costly a hostile work environment can be.
After failing to mitigate acts of racial inequality and discrimination at their factory in Fremont, CA between June 2015 and May 2016, the automaker now owes former contract worker Owen Diaz $130 million in punitive damages and $6.9 million for emotional distress.
Employed by contract worker placement agency Citistaff, Owen Diaz worked as a contracted elevator operator at the Fremont factory from June 2015 to May 2016. During his time there, he allegedly suffered from racial harassment and a hostile work environment.
According to Tesla’s post-verdict blog post, three other witnesses testified at the trial. According to them, racial slurs were the norm on the Fremont factory floor. They also witnessed racist graffiti in the bathrooms.
$137 million is an unprecedented number, and should send a big-time message to all who work at Tesla’s factories.
A series of unfortunate events
This isn’t the first time Tesla has been liable for discriminatory damages.
Earlier in August, Tesla had to pay former employee Melvin Berry $1 million. According to CBS News, Melvin Berry “was called the N-word while working in the electric automaker’s factory in California.”
Additionally, “two Tesla supervisors used racial slurs against Berry and those instance[s] caused him emotional and psychological harm.”
Back in 2017, ex-assembly worker Marcus Vaughn denounced Tesla’s Fremont factory as a “hotbed for racist behavior.” Supervisors and co-workers allegedly called him the N-word, and he continually experienced racial harassment.
Tesla’s response to that incident came in the form of a blog post titled “Hotbed of Misinformation,” where they defended themselves and pointed out alleged falsehoods.