A former Tesla employee has won $1 million from the company after it was found that Tesla failed to act when a supervisor referred to that employee, Melvin Berry, with a racial slur, Bloomberg Law reports.
Berry, who is Black, was hired at Tesla’s plant in Alameda, California in 2015. He recently raised a lawsuit against the company that alleged a supervisor called him the n-word, then, after Berry confronted him, required Berry to work longer hours and perform more physically demanding tasks than his colleagues.
Tesla denied the allegations, but arbitrator Elaine Rushing gave credence to the allegations, saying in a previously unpublished May 12 hearing, “Case law is clear that one instance of a supervisor directing the N-word at a subordinate is sufficient to constitute severe harassment.”
Bloomberg Law notes that cases involving alleged racial discrimination can provide difficulties when it comes to winning a settlement, since it can often be difficult to prove that harassment actually took place. In Berry’s case, for example, it could be difficult to verify that his supervisor actually did require him to undertake more physically demanding work due to his skin color. That a large settlement has taken place suggests there was ample evidence to back up Berry’s claim.
Here’s a little more from the story on how the result of the arbitration, which normally remains confidential, came to light:
While Berry’s arbitration was confidential, which is typical, his victory came to light in a standard petition his lawyer filed in court to enforce the arbitrator’s order. His lawyer, Lawrence Organ, said in a phone interview that his client won’t be taking any further legal action as Tesla has since paid the award.
Three-quarters of the $1.02 million award is for Berry’s attorneys’ fees and legal costs. Rushing also directed Tesla to pay the ex-employee $266,278.50 in damages, including $100,000 to compensate for emotional distress.
Tesla, for its own part, alleged that Berry had left voluntarily, left no written record of the supervisor referring to him by a slur, and only deserved $148 for economic losses.
This settlement comes after other allegations of racial discrimination at Tesla plants. Marcus Vaughn, also a Fremont plant worker, sued the company in 2017 because he alleged that the company failed to investigate his written report that co-workers and supervisors also called him the n-word. A different lawsuit alleged that Tesla failed to quickly clean up hateful graffiti in common areas.