A Black former elevator operator at Tesla Inc's flagship California assembly plant began testifying on Wednesday in a trial over how much the electric vehicle maker must pay for subjecting him to severe racial harassment by coworkers.
TThe plaintiff, Owen Diaz, struggled to speak at times during his testimony, including when he explained how he had recorded Spanish-speaking coworkers and later discovered using a translation website that they were calling him racial slurs.
Diaz said that racial incidents at the Fremont, California, electric-vehicle factory strained his relationship with his son, who also worked there, and have made it difficult for him to trust people.
“It made me feel less than a man (and) it made me question my worth,” Diaz said. He added: “I was living from paycheck to paycheck and I needed the job.”
At one point, U.S. District Judge William Orrick called a 15-minute recess in order for Diaz to compose himself.
Diaz was expected to testify for roughly four hours, likely stretching into Thursday, about the nine months in 2015 that he worked at the Fremont plant.
The five-day trial on damages comes after a jury in 2021 found Tesla liable for discrimination and ordered the company to pay Diaz $137 million. The trial began on Monday.
Orrick last year agreed with the jury that the EV maker had fostered a hostile work environment but slashed the award to $15 million. Diaz rejected the lower payout and opted for a new trial on damages before a different jury.