Tesla Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) will have to pay one of its ex-workers a whopping $137 million on the grounds of racial abuse. The federal court in San Francisco ruled that the company had not acted against the abuse suffered by Owen Díaz, a black man who performed his tasks at the Freemont factory in California.
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According to ABC News, Díaz is a forklift operator who suffered racist insults in a hostile work environment, in which he worked for nine months between June 2015 and March 2016 –the period in which the events would have occurred.
Diaz claimed that he and other black workers were regularly subjected to contempt by other staff members, with expressions such as “go back to Africa” or “nigger.” He was also targeted through racist graffiti –swastikas– in the toilets and even in his workspace.
“The progressive image of Tesla was a facade that concealed the retrograde and degrading treatment of its African-American employees,” a whistleblower said.
The fine is justified by Tesla’s inaction in the situation. According to the jury, the company founded by Elon Musk created a hostile environment by not being able to curb racist attitudes in its facilities.
“We are happy that the jury has seen the truth and has established a sum that, hopefully, will push Tesla to act,” the whistleblower told The Washington Post.
On behalf of Tesla, vice president of human resources Valerie Capers stated in a post on the company's blog that "the facts do not justify the verdict of the jury.” She is aware that “in 2015 and 2016 Tesla was not perfect, nor is it now, but the Tesla of then is not the one of today.”
“We will continue to remind everyone who enters Tesla's workspaces that no insult, regardless of the intention or who emits it, will be tolerated,” she said, without clarifying whether the company will appeal the decision.
In an interview with the New York Times, Diaz said: “It took four long years to get to this point. It’s like a big weight has been pulled off my shoulders.”
In May, Tesla went through a similar situation as an arbitrator ordered it to pay more than $1 million after another Fremont factory ex-employee made the same allegations. He said that other staff members called him a racial slur while managers kept brushing his complaints aside.
Tesla is part of the Entrepreneur Index, which tracks 60 of the largest publicly traded companies managed by their founders or their founders’ families.