A federal judge told Owen Diaz, a former elevator operator at Tesla, that he has two weeks to decide whether he wants to accept $15 million in damages over racial abuse at the automaker’s Fremont, California factory, according to a court filing on Tuesday.
In October last year, a San Francisco federal court jury ordered Tesla to pay the Black former worker $137 million for turning a blind eye to racial harassment and discrimination at Tesla’s EV plant. However, in April, that payout was slashed to $15 million after Tesla challenged the verdict, saying it should only pay $600,000. At the time, U.S. District Judge William Orrick in San Francisco reduced both the compensatory damages, from $6.9 million to $1.5 million, and the punitive damages, from $130 million to $13.5 million.
Orrick said in Tuesday’s order that he could find no controlling question of law to justify an immediate appeal of the reduced award. The judge also said he was convinced the jury award was excessive and that allowing for a quick appeal “would further delay resolution of a case that is already five years old.”
Diaz testified that employees, including a Tesla supervisor, called him the N-word and other racial slurs, drew racist caricatures and swastikas and subjected him to other forms of discrimination during his nine months working at Tesla in 2015 and 2016.
California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) is also suing Tesla over alleged racism and harassment of Black employees at the Fremont factory. In April, Tesla filed a complaint against the DFEH, claiming the agency is exceeding its legal authority by coming after the EV maker.
On Tuesday, Reuters reported that Tesla had filed a complaint against the DFEH with California’s Office of Administrative Law (OAL) that accuses the agency of adopting “underground regulations” that flout requirements it must meet before suing employers. However, OAL confirmed to TechCrunch that Tesla filed no such complaint as of yet.
Even if the company were to do so, it wouldn’t have an affect on the current case. According to government code, Tesla would have needed to file an underground regulation petition before the case started for it to be considered and have a potential effect on the current case.
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