Federal Judge Denounces ‘Awful, Pervasive Racism’ at Tesla Factory in Landmark Decision

FREMONT, Calif. – A federal court judge has denied Tesla’s request to reduce a $3 million punitive damages award to a Black former worker, citing pervasive racism at the company’s electric car factory in Fremont. Judge William Orrick described the actions of Tesla as “grievously reprehensible” and emphasized the pervasiveness of racist conduct by coworkers, subordinates, and supervisors.

Tesla had sought to cut the damages award to $1,575,000, arguing that the initial amount approved by Orrick was too high. However, the judge maintained that the $3 million punitive damages award was appropriate given the endemic racism at the Tesla factory and the company’s failure to address it adequately.

The lawsuit was filed by Owen Diaz, who accused the car manufacturer and its CEO Elon Musk of subjecting him to racial abuse while working at the factory. Diaz was initially awarded $137 million in damages by a jury in 2021, but Orrick reduced that amount to $15 million. Diaz opted for a new trial, which resulted in a $3.2 million award, including $3 million for punitive damages.

The ruling by Judge Orrick has once again brought attention to the longstanding allegations of rampant anti-Black racism at the Fremont plant, where all four Tesla models are produced. The company is facing multiple lawsuits from current and former workers, as well as government agencies, over allegations of racial discrimination.

Tesla did not provide any comment in response to the ruling. However, the company has previously stated its opposition to all forms of discrimination and harassment, claiming to take disciplinary action against employees involved in misconduct.

In his decision, Judge Orrick highlighted the racist conduct of Diaz’s supervisors, who repeatedly used a racial slur when addressing him. He also noted that one supervisor had threatened to attack Diaz while using the slur. Despite this evidence, an investigation into the incident was allegedly halted prematurely, and the supervisor in question still retains employment at Tesla.

Earlier this year, court filings in a separate lawsuit revealed over 200 current and former Black workers’ claims of racial segregation, frequent racist treatment, language, and graffiti at the Fremont plant. While CEO Elon Musk is not named as a defendant in that lawsuit, workers have criticized him for creating a permissive environment that allowed racism and harassment to persist.

Although Tesla suffered a setback in the Diaz case, Judge Orrick also denied Diaz’s request for a new trial based on the misconduct of a Tesla lawyer. The lawyer had repeatedly violated court orders during the trial, but the judge concluded that the misconduct did not significantly influence the jury’s decision.

Ultimately, the ruling in the Diaz case underscores the serious consequences Tesla faces for its mistreatment of Black workers. The company will be required to pay over $3 million in damages, further highlighting the need for corporations to address issues of racism and discrimination within their organizations.

[Restate key facts: A federal court judge in Fremont, California rejected Tesla’s bid to reduce a $3 million punitive damages award to a Black former worker who experienced pervasive racism at the company’s factory. The judge emphasized the severity of the racism and Tesla’s failure to address it adequately. The ruling brings attention to ongoing allegations of anti-Black racism at the Fremont plant, where all four Tesla models are produced. Tesla has faced numerous lawsuits from current and former workers and government agencies over racial discrimination claims. Despite the setback, the ruling demonstrates the need for corporations to address racism and discrimination in the workplace.]