Tesla settles race bias claims by Black former worker after $3 million verdict

By Daniel Wiessner

(Reuters) -Tesla has settled a long running lawsuit by a Black former factory worker who claimed he was subjected to severe racial harassment, according to a court filing on Friday, as the electric carmaker faces a series of other discrimination lawsuits.

Tesla and lawyers for Owen Diaz, a former elevator operator at the company’s Fremont, California assembly plant, did not disclose details of the settlement in the filing in San Francisco federal court.

The agreement ends appeals that both sides were pursuing after a jury last year awarded Diaz $3.2 million in damages. Tesla claimed it was not liable for the alleged discrimination and Diaz had argued that the company’s lawyers engaged in misconduct warranting a new trial.

A different jury in 2021 had awarded Diaz $137 million, one of the largest verdicts ever in a discrimination case involving a single worker. But a judge found that the verdict was excessive and ordered a second trial after Diaz refused a lowered award of $15 million.

Diaz, who first sued Tesla in 2017, claimed that when he worked at the Fremont plant he was subjected on a daily basis to racial slurs, scrawled swastikas and other racist conduct, and that Tesla ignored his complaints.

Tesla and lawyers for Diaz did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The company has said it does not tolerate discrimination and has fired employees accused of racist conduct.

Tesla faces similar claims of tolerating race bias at the Fremont plant in a pending class action on behalf of 6,000 workers, separate cases from California and U.S. anti-bias agencies, and multiple lawsuits involving individual employees. The company has denied wrongdoing in those cases.

(Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New YorkEditing by Chris Reese, David Gregorio and Alexia Garamfalvi)