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


FILE PHOTO: The Tesla factory is seen in Fremont, California, U.S. June 22, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam//File Photo

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

U.S. 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 $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 $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 July 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.

(Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York; Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi, Leslie Adler and Aurora Ellis)

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