Ex-Tesla Employee Starts Testifying in New Racial Harassment Trial

A former Black elevator operator at Tesla’s primary California assembly plant started providing testimony in a trial on Wednesday, to establish the appropriate compensation for the severe racial harassment he allegedly endured from colleagues, reports Reuters.

Owen Diaz is set to testify for approximately four hours, recounting the psychological effects of racial insults, threats, and other incidents he faced while working at Tesla’s Fremont, California factory in 2015 for nine months.

The ongoing five-day trial in a federal court in San Francisco follows a 2021 decision, in which a jury ruled that Tesla was responsible for discrimination and instructed the company to pay Diaz $137 million. A judge later reduced the award to $15 million, but Diaz declined the lower amount, opting for a new trial to determine damages before a separate jury.

Bernard Alexander, Diaz’s attorney, likened the Fremont facility to a “plantation” where Black employees were subjected to harassment and their complaints were disregarded by management during his opening statement.

Tesla insists that it does not condone workplace harassment and handles discrimination complaints with seriousness. Alex Spiro, the company’s attorney, asserted that Diaz’s claims of emotional distress were overstated and no evidence supported a multimillion-dollar award.

So far, the jury has listened to testimonies from five Fremont plant employees and supervisors, a Tesla human resources manager, and a lawyer specializing in workplace dispute investigations who acted as an expert witness for Diaz.

The trial started on Monday and Diaz’s testimony is expected to extend into Thursday.

The lawyer testified that while Tesla had established sufficient anti-bias policies, the company did not effectively investigate and address complaints from Diaz and other Black employees.