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On Tuesday Owen Diaz, a Black former elevator operator at Tesla’s flagship California assembly plant on Tuesday rejected a $15 million award in his lawsuit alleging racial abuse by coworkers. In turn, this could potentially open the door for a new trial after a judge slashed a $137 million jury verdict, per NBC News.
Lawyers for Diaz, who had sued Tesla five years ago, turned down the judge’s award in a brief filing in federal court in San Francisco. They said in a statement that the award was unjust and would not deter future misconduct by Tesla.
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Last week, a Tesla shareholder filed a lawsuit accusing the company’s chief executive, Elon Musk, and board of directors of neglecting worker complaints and fostering a toxic workplace culture. That suit joins many others directed at Tesla over the years which have accused the company of a wide range of damning allegations.
“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 lawyers said.
U.S. District Judge William Orrick lowered the jury award, which was one of the largest of its kind in a discrimination lawsuit, to $15 million in April. He had also denied Tesla’s motion for a new trial, conditioned on Diaz’s acceptance of the lower award.
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Earlier this month the judge denied Diaz’s motion for permission to appeal that ruling and gave him two weeks to accept the lower award or agree to a new trial per NBC News.
Tesla faces a series of lawsuits involving alleged widespread race discrimination and sexual harassment at its Fremont, California factory.
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Tesla has denied wrongdoing and says it has policies in place to prevent and address workplace misconduct.
Diaz alleged that his colleagues and a supervisor subjected him to a hostile work environment that included slurs, caricatures and swastikas in his nine months working at the Fremont plant in 2015 and 2016.
A jury had awarded Diaz $6.9 million of compensatory damages and $130 million of punitive damages last October, but Orrick in April said those numbers were excessive.
According to NBC News, Diaz’s lawyers in their statement on Tuesday said Orrick’s decision highlighted systemic bias that federal judges have against juries, which in turn violates the constitutional rights plaintiffs have to a trial by jury.
AMEN, BLESS HIM AND GIVE HIM JUSTIC…ACIREMA 2022
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