Black ex-Tesla worker awarded $3.2 million in a racial harassment case is seeking a new trial, saying 'poisonous messaging' made proceedings unfair

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Owen Diaz has rejected a $3.2 million payout from Tesla in a racial harassment case against the firm.Getty Images
  • A Black former Tesla worker rejected a $3.2 million payout in a racial harassment case against the firm.

  • Owen Diaz is seeking another trial after Tesla lawyer's "poisonous messaging" tainted proceedings.

  • Diaz said he suffered racist abuse from colleagues who told him to "go back to Africa."

A Black former Tesla contract worker who was awarded $3.2 million in damages in a racial harassment case against the company is seeking a retrial, saying that the use of "poisonous messaging" tainted the proceedings.

Owen Diaz, who was hired as an elevator operator at Tesla's Fremont, California factory via an agency in 2015, was originally awarded $137 million in 2021 for his case against the company.


Diaz told the court in 2021 that colleagues verbally abused him and told him to "go back to Africa," according to CNBC. He also said that racist graffiti could be found in the bathrooms of the factory.

But the $137 million payout was later slashed to $15 million after a judge said that the previous jury had awarded an "unconstitutionally large" sum. Diaz opted for a retrial which saw his payout diminish to $3.2 million.

In a court filing on Tuesday, Diaz's lawyers said that he "did not receive the free trial to which he was entitled," because of Tesla's "improper" line of questioning.

The filing said that Tesla's lawyers made unfounded claims about Diaz being a "racist and misogynist who hurled ethnic slurs against 'dumb Mexicans' and sexually harassed multiple women."

It continued: "Each incident of misconduct damaged the integrity of the trial and their cumulative impact on the jury was monumentally prejudicial to Plaintiff.

"The Court was forced to repeatedly issue curative instructions to counteract Tesla's behavior but those instructions (while proper) necessarily highlighted Tesla's poisonous messaging. There was no meaningful way to wipe Tesla's improper accusations and suggestions from the jury's consciousness," it added.

In a separate filing on Tuesday, lawyers for Tesla said that the company is seeking to further reduce the awarded damages to $1.75 million. These lawyers said that the $3.2 million payout is disproportionate to Diaz's compensatory damages, per Bloomberg.

Lawyers for Diaz did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment. Tesla did not respond to Insider's request for comment; its press team was dissolved in 2019.

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