A federal judge said Tesla Inc was liable to a Black elevator operator who claimed the electric vehicle maker overlooked racial harassment at the plant where he worked but cut the jury award from almost $137 million to $15 million.
During his nine months at the plant, Diaz said other employees used racist slurs and scribbled slurs, including "N-words," on bathroom walls. He further claimed that a racial caricature was drawn at his workstation by one of his supervisors.
U.S. District Judge William Orrick Orrick said in a 43-page ruling that the evidence abundantly supported the jury's finding that Tesla was responsible for Diaz's "profound" mental suffering and the company's "often inadequate" disciplinary actions, according to a report by Reuters.
However, the court cut Diaz's compensatory damages to $1.5 million, down from the jury's "excessive" verdict of $6.9 million, and reduced punitive damages to $13.5 million, down from the jury's "unconstitutionally large" award of $130 million.
Diaz's lawyer, Bernard Alexander, said in an interview that his client plans to appeal the reduced damages decision. "We're pleased that the court upheld the jury's finding that Tesla's conduct was absolutely reprehensible," Alexander said.
Tesla faced similar claims in other lawsuits. A California agency alleged in February that Black workers at a plant in Fremont faced constant harassment.
Recently, a black gay woman who worked as a contract worker at a Tesla facility recently filed a lawsuit alleging that she was attacked with a hot grinding tool and shouted insults by a white coworker.