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Tesla ordered to pay 137 million dollars to a former employee victim of racism within one of its factories

It is a judgment that could be landmark. A Californian jury condemned, Monday, October 4, the car company Tesla to pay a former black employee nearly 137 million dollars (about 118 million euros) in damages, for having turned a blind eye to the racism that suffered the man in a factory of the group.

Hired through a recruitment agency, Owen Diaz worked as a freight elevator operator between June 2015 and July 2016 at the electric vehicle manufacturer’s factory in Fremont, California, where he suffered racial slurs and a harsh work environment. hostile, according to court documents.

During the trial, Mr. Diaz explained that African Americans at the factory, where his son also worked, were regularly subjected to racist nicknames and denigration. According to his testimony, the employees had drawn swastikas, as well as racist graffiti and drawings around the factory. Mr. Diaz claimed that, despite complaints to the hierarchy, Tesla did not react to end the habitual racism.

” A facade “

“Tesla’s progressive image was a facade to hide the retrograde and demeaning treatment of its African-American employees”according to the complaint.

The San Francisco federal court jury awarded Mr. Diaz 6.9 million dollars (approximately 6 million euros) in damages for “emotional distress” and 130 million dollars (112.5 million euros) as punishment, his lawyer, Larry Organ, told the washington post. “They decided on an amount that could serve as a wake-up call for American firms”, he declared on Tuesday to Agence France-Presse. “ Don’t behave in a racist way and don’t let racism continue”added the lawyer.

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“I knew Owen was telling the truth, I just had to prove it to eight people I didn’t know”he said, in reference to the jury. “Normal people see through the bullshit displayed on American clubs. »

On the side of Tesla, the vice president in charge of human resources, Valerie Capers Workman, admitted some of the facts in a press release published in the wake of the verdict: “While we firmly believe that the facts do not support this decision by the San Francisco jury, we recognize that in 2015 and 2016 we weren’t perfect. » She mentions that at the Fremont plant, other employees testified that they had “regularly heard racist insults”, whose word nigger (“nigger”). According to her, these employees said that “Most of the time, they thought this language was used in a ‘friendly’ way and generally by African-American colleagues.” She explained that Tesla responded to Owen Diaz’s complaints by firing two contract workers.

“They invent excuses”

“Our line of attack was for Tesla not to take responsibility,” detailed Larry Organ. “They are doing the same thing now: they are making up excuses,” he charged.

Valerie Capers Workman also pointed out that Tesla has made changes since the time Owen Diaz worked at the plant, creating a human resources team that investigates employee complaints. “We’re still not perfect, but we’ve come a long way in five years,” she added.

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In May, after an arbitration, Tesla was forced to pay more than a million dollars (870,000 euros) for similar allegations by another former worker at the Fremont factory. This employee had accused his colleagues of subjecting him to racial slurs, and his supervisors of ignoring his complaints.

Le Monde with AP and AFP

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