Tesla Told To Pay $3.2m In Racial Harrassment Lawsuit

Tesla's Gigafactory in Fremont. Image credit: Tesla

Federal jury in San Francisco tells Tesla to pay $3.2m in punitive damages for racial harrassment, far lower than $137m awarded in 2021

A US federal jury has ordered Tesla to pay $3.2 million (£2.6m) in punitive damages to a Black former employee in a racial harassment lawsuit, far less than the $15m the employee had rejected last year.

The award followed a one-week retrial in the case of plaintiff Owen Diaz, who was awarded $137m by a different jury in 2021.

Last year a judge agreed that Tesla was liable, but said the award was excessive and slashed it to $15m, calling for a new trial on damages after Diaz rejected the reduced award.

Diaz said Tesla failed to act when he repeatedly complained to managers about frequent racist slurs and scrawled swastikas, racist caricatures and epithets on walls and work areas.

Tesla's Gigafactory in Fremont. Image credit: Tesla
Tesla’s Gigafactory in Fremont. Image credit: Tesla

Punitive award

A federal jury in San Francisco on Monday awarded $175,000 in damages for emotional distress and $3m in punitive damages designed to punish unlawful conduct and deter it in future.

“If we had been allowed to introduce new evidence, the verdict would’ve been zero imo,” Tesla chief executive Elon Musk wrote on Twitter.

He added, “Jury did the best they could with the information they had. I respect the decision.”

Tesla said it does not tolerate workplace discrimination and takes worker complaints seriously.


Bernard Alexander, a lawyer for Diaz, during closing arguments on Friday urged jurors to award nearly $160m in damages to send a message to Tesla and other large companies that they would be held accountable for failing to address racial harrassment.

“Mr. Diaz’s outlook on the world has been permanently changed,” said Alexander. “That is what happens when you take away a person’s safety.”

Tesla lawyer Alex Spiro said Diaz was a confrontational worker who exaggerated his claims of emotional distress and said his lawyers failed to show any serious, long-lasting damage caused by Tesla.

“They’re just throwing numbers up on the screen like this is some kind of game show,” said Spiro.