Tesla told to pay $137m over racial abuse

·1-min read

A Tesla worker has been awarded nearly $US137 million ($A188 million) after suffering racial abuse at the electric carmaker's San Francisco Bay Area factory.

The jury in San Francisco agreed that Owen Diaz was subjected to racial harassment and a hostile work environment.

Diaz alleged in a lawsuit he was harassed and faced "daily racist epithets", including the "N-word", while working at Tesla's Fremont plant as a contracted lift operator in 2015 and 2016 before quitting.

He alleged that employees drew swastikas and left racist graffiti and drawings around the plant, and contended that supervisors failed to stop the abuse.

"Tesla's progressive image was a facade papering over its regressive, demeaning treatment of African-American employees," the lawsuit said.

Diaz was awarded $US6.9 million in damages for emotional distress and $US130 million in punitive damages from Tesla Inc., his lawyer, Lawrence A Organ, told the Washington Post.

"It took four long years to get to this point," Diaz told the New York Times. "It's like a big weight has been pulled off my shoulders."

Organ, speaking to the Times, said: "It's a great thing when one of the richest corporations in America has to have a reckoning of the abhorrent conditions at its factory for black people."

It was not immediately clear whether Tesla would appeal the decision.

Tesla previously denied any knowledge of the alleged racist conduct at the plant, which has about 10,000 workers.

If upheld, the award would be a blow to a company that has been subject to various allegations of workplace problems but requires employees to resolve disputes through mandatory arbitration, which the firm has rarely lost.

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