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Judge orders new trial in Tesla worker's race bias lawsuit

Judge orders new trial in Tesla worker's race bias lawsuit

The Tesla factory is seen in Fremont, California, on Jun 22, 2018. (Photo: REUTERS/Stephen Lam)

A federal judge in California on Monday ordered a new trial on the damages Tesla owes to a Black former factory worker who accused the company of race discrimination, after he turned down a US$15 million award.

US District Judge William Orrick in San Francisco granted Tesla's motion for a new trial a week after the former elevator operator, Owen Diaz, said he would not accept the judge's award.

A jury last October had awarded Diaz US$137 million, one of the largest verdicts ever in a discrimination case involving a single worker. Orrick in April said Tesla was liable to Diaz for discrimination, but he said the award was excessive and lowered it to US$15 million.

Diaz's lawyers said last week that the lower award was unjust because it undermined his constitutional rights to a trial by jury.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Lawrence Organ, a lawyer for Diaz, said "we are hopeful that a new jury will see the evidence in a similar light to the first jury and that Mr. Diaz will get the justice that the jury system is supposed to provide to him."

Orrick did not set a date for the new trial, but scheduled a conference for Jul 12.

In his 2017 lawsuit, Diaz alleged that his colleagues and a supervisor at Tesla's Fremont, California, assembly plant subjected him to a hostile work environment that included racist slurs, caricatures and swastikas.

Tesla is facing a series of lawsuits involving alleged widespread race discrimination and sexual harassment at the Fremont factory, including one by a California civil rights agency.

This month, a Tesla shareholder filed a lawsuit accusing the company's chief executive, Elon Musk, and board of directors of neglecting worker complaints and fostering a toxic workplace culture.

Tesla has denied wrongdoing and says it has policies in place to prevent and address workplace misconduct.

Source: Reuters

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