The idle Tesla Factory is seen in Fremont, Calif., on May 10, 2020. A jury ordered Tesla to pay a former contract worker at the factory $137 million for racial discrimination. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 5 (UPI) -- A federal jury in California has ordered Tesla to pay a former worker $137 million for failing to stop a workplace culture in which he was racially discriminated.
The jury on Monday found that Owen Diaz and other workers of color were subjected to multiple instances of racial discrimination during the nine months he worked at a Tesla factory located in Fremont, Calif., between 2015 and 2016.
"I'm gratified that the jury saw the truth and that they sent a message to Tesla to clean up its workplace," Owen's attorney, Larry Organ, told NPR.
The lawsuit said Diaz worked as a contract elevator operator at the factory and instead of a "modern workplace," he found the environment to be a "scene straight from the Jim Crow era."
Diaz said Tesla employees called him and other workers racial slurs, and drew racist images left around the factory, and that he was told to "go back to Africa."
In the lawsuit, Diaz said he complained of the discrimination multiple times to contracting companies Citistaff and nextSource, but that nothing ever came of the complaints.
Tesla's vice president of people, Valerie Capers Workman, issued a statement Tuesday saying, "the Tesla of 2015 and 2016 (when Mr. Diaz worked in the Fremont factory) is not the same as the Tesla of today."
"We acknowledge that we still have work to do to ensure that every employee feels that they can bring their whole self to work at Tesla," she said.
Workman argued that though witnesses testified to hearing racial slurs used on the factory floor, they "agreed that most of the the time they thought the language was used in a 'friendly' manner and usually by African American colleagues."