Tesla seeks full new trial in factory worker’s racial bias lawsuit

  • Worker must prove liability before seeking damages, Tesla says
  • Judge said jury award of $137 million was excessive
  • The plaintiff opted for a new trial for damages rather than reduced compensation

Oct 17 (Reuters) – Tesla Inc has asked a California federal judge who overturned a $137 million jury verdict in a factory worker’s racial discrimination case to order an all-new trial, arguing that pursuing a narrower trial solely on the issue of damages would be unconstitutional.

Tesla lawyers in a Friday filing in federal court in San Francisco said jurors could not determine how much the company should pay the worker, Owen Diaz, without first hearing all the evidence of the alleged harassment to which he had been confronted at the company’s flagship meeting in Fremont, California. plant.

Telling the jury that Tesla has already been convicted of condoning discrimination would skew the case in Diaz’s favor, violating Tesla’s right to a fair jury trial under the Seventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the company said. .

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U.S. District Judge William Orrick is scheduled to hold a hearing on Tesla’s motion on Dec. 7. The lawsuit for damages is scheduled for March.

Attorneys for Tesla and Diaz did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday.

Diaz, in a 2017 lawsuit, said other employees used racial slurs and scrawled swastikas and slurs on the walls of the factory’s bathrooms. He also said a supervisor drew a racist cartoon near his workstation.

Last year, a jury awarded Diaz $137 million, one of the largest verdicts ever in a discrimination case involving a single worker. Orrick said in April that the evidence amply supported the jury’s finding that Tesla was liable for discrimination, but the price was excessive and lowered it to $15 million.

Diaz’s attorneys said the lower award was unfair and opted for a new lawsuit for damages.

Tesla said Friday that the issues of liability and damages are “inextricably linked” and that Diaz must start from scratch with a full new trial.

“Liability and damages here all rest on exactly the same thing: the alleged extent, degree and magnitude of the racial slurs and symbols Mr. Diaz encountered at the Fremont plant,” wrote Tesla lawyers.

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

Last month, the company filed a countersuit against the agency, saying it filed the lawsuit without following the procedures required by state law.

The case is Diaz v Tesla Inc et al, US District Court, Northern District of California, No. 17-06748.

For Diaz: Lawrence Organ of California Civil Rights Law Group; Michael Rubin of Altshuler Berzon; J. Bernard Alexander of Alexander Morrison & Fehr

For Tesla: Kathleen Sullivan of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan

Read more:

Judge finds Tesla liable to former black worker who alleged bias, but cuts payments

Judge orders new trial in Tesla worker’s racial bias lawsuit

Tesla employee rejects $15 million payout in racial bias lawsuit

Tesla counter-suing California agency behind racial bias lawsuit

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Daniel Wiessner

Thomson Reuters

Dan Wiessner (@danwiessner) reports on labor and employment and immigration law, including litigation and policy development. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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