© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A logo of the electric vehicle maker Tesla is seen near a shopping complex in Beijing, China January 5, 2021. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang/
By Jonathan Stempel and Daniel Wiessner
(Reuters) -A federal judge on Wednesday said Tesla (NASDAQ:) Inc was liable to a Black elevator operator who said the electric car company ignored racial abuse at the factory where he worked, but reduced a nearly $137 million jury award to $15 million.
U.S. District Judge William Orrick in San Francisco ruled after jurors last October found that Owen Diaz had been subjected to a hostile environment based on his race while working at Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California.
In a 43-page decision, the judge said the evidence “amply supports” the jury’s finding that Tesla was liable.
But he said the $6.9 million in compensatory damages that the jury awarded Diaz was “excessive” and should be reduced to $1.5 million, while the $130 million of punitive damages was “unconstitutionally large” and should be cut to $13.5 million.
Orrick gave Diaz 30 days to accept the $15 million award or seek a new trial on damages.
Tesla and its lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Diaz’s lawyers did not immediately respond to similar requests.
Led by billionaire Elon Musk, Tesla faces similar claims in numerous lawsuits.
In one such case, California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing alleged in February that Black workers at the Fremont plant endured constant harassment, but saw their complaints ignored.