Tesla employee awarded $137 million for racial discrimination finding at the workplace

Just last week a federal jury in San Francisco found Tesla was liable for racial discrimination against a former black contractor and ordered to pay a total of $137 million dollars in damages including $130 million dollars in punitive damages and $6.9 million in emotional damages.

The former black employee, who worked as a contractor operating the elevators at Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, was subjected to racial discrimination including being called the “N-word”, told to “go back to Africa” and he and others faced Tesla employees drawing racist and derogatory pictures left throughout the factory.

Despite complaints from the employee Owen Diaz about the racism he and others were facing, nothing was ever done to stop the discriminatory actions at the Tesla factory.  While Telsa states there is room for improvement, they dispute the magnitude of the award of damages.

So what is the lesson for Employers?  When an employee makes a complaint, or an employee is observed to be harassed or discriminated against in the workplace, pay attention and take things seriously.   Here, Mr. Diaz complained to his supervisors and the behavior did not stop.   When you receive a compliant, consult with legal counsel to determine what the best steps are to acknowledging the complaint, investigating the compliant and making sure your employee feels heard.   Ensure that your companies foundation is solid – with proper written policies and procedures in place so your employees feel comfortable making a complaint and know who to make the complaint to.  Make sure your supervisors/managers are well aware of your Zero tolerance policies, and the proper and California state mandated harassment training is timely completed. 

To ensure you are compliant with California Labor laws relating to the prevention of harassment and discrimination in the workplace, to discuss an issue or concern in your workplace, contact the Employer Lawyers at Chauvel & Glatt.   

The material in this article, provided by Chauvel & Glatt, is designed to provide informative and current information as of the date of the post. It should not be considered, nor is it intended to constitute, legal advice or promise similar outcomes. For information on your particular circumstances, please contact Chauvel & Glatt at 650-573-9500. (Photo credit:123rf.com)

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