$137M jury award against Tesla reduced to $15M

A federal judge reduced a $137 million award against Tesla to $15 million in a racial bias lawsuit on April 13, but denied the electric car maker’s request for a new trial . We have collected articles on the news of SHRM online and other media.

Verdict from last year

Last year, a federal judge ordered Tesla to pay a black former elevator operator $137 million in damages over his claim that the electric car maker ignored racial epithets and graffiti that created a hostile work environment. The complainant, who was hired to work through a recruitment agency in 2015 and 2016, claimed he was forced to quit because he was subjected to ‘everyday racist epithets’, including the N-word, as well as swastika designs and other racist graffiti. at a Tesla factory in the San Francisco Bay Area. The complainant said supervisors failed to curb the behavior. Tesla did not comment on the verdict but has previously denied knowledge of alleged racist behavior at the Bay Area plant.

(Associated Press) and (SHRM online)

‘Unconstitutionally significant’ prior award

The judge described the earlier award of punitive damages of $130 million as “unconstitutionally high”, reducing the amount of compensatory damages from $6.9 million to $1.5 million and the amount punitive damages to $13.5 million.

(MarketWatch) and (The New York Times)

Conclusion of liability confirmed

In the April 13 decision, the judge said the evidence amply supported the jury’s finding that Tesla was responsible for the “profound” emotional harm suffered by the employee and the “often inadequate” disciplinary action taken by the company. The worker’s attorney said the employee would appeal the reduction in damages.


Message from Tesla to employees

In a message to employees last year that was shared on the company blog, a Tesla executive described what the jury heard and said the company believes “these facts do not support the verdict. “.

“We recognize that in 2015 and 2016 we weren’t perfect,” wrote Valerie Capers Workman, then vice president of People. “We’re still not perfect.” Workman added, “We will continue to remind everyone who enters the Tesla workplace that any discriminatory slurs, regardless of intent or who uses them, will not be tolerated.”


another trial

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) sued Tesla separately on February 9, alleging racial discrimination and harassment. “After receiving hundreds of worker complaints and a nearly three-year investigation, DFEH has found evidence that Tesla operates a racially segregated workplace where black workers face racial slurs and are discriminated against in job assignments. work, discipline, remuneration and promotion,” said the DFEH. Director Kevin Kish.

Tesla criticized the lawsuit, arguing that the state agency had investigated dozens of prior claims over the past few years and found no wrongdoing. “It therefore severely tests the agency’s credibility to allege now, after a three-year investigation, that systematic racial discrimination and harassment somehow existed at Tesla,” the statement said. society.

(SHRM online) and (The New York Times)

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