- Sep 23, 2021
According to Bloomberg, Tesla has been asked to pay over $1 million to a Black former employee, Melvin Berry, who implicated two supervisors of its Fremont factory in northern California after they called him the N-word.
This particular case is reported to have been handled behind closed doors and did not get to court. Available filings indicated that Melvin began working at Tesla back in 2015, as a materials handler. Melvin also later claimed that he was made to work more hours and do more tedious work after confronting his supervisor about the name-calling.
Tesla initially denied the allegations at the early stages claiming there was no written evidence to corroborate Berry’s story or other evidence at all suggesting he ever complained to his co-workers or the HR department about his supervisors using the unsavory N-word. This was per the arbitrator’s May 12 ruling. The company also said at the time, that Berry left the job willingly.
The arbitrator for this case, however, Elaine Rushing, says she has reasons to believe that both of Berry’s supervisors at the time used the slur and created a racially hostile environment for Melvin to work in. Although she admitted that it was a difficult case to decide upon, she found Tesla liable being that the harassment came from Berry’s supervisors, and Tesla took no action whatsoever against their harsh conduct.
She wrote further, of how Berry was ignored every time he attempted to report behaviors of discrimination and mentioned how she also found out that racial signs and symbols like swastikas lingered for long around the workplace.
While Tesla was asked to pay exactly $1.02 million, a large chunk of the money went towards Berry’s attorneys’ fees and legal costs, but Tesla was also told to pay $266,278.50 in damages, including $100,000 to compensate for emotional distress, to Berry.
Filings from the ruling also revealed how Berry claimed that he suffered sleepless nights, panic attacks, depression, headaches, and anxiety as a result of the maltreatment from his supervisors. He went on to explain how he sought help from a psychologist when he started questioning his own sanity, per the ruling. Unfortunately, he had to leave his job barely 17 months after he started.
Tesla, in its own defense, also put out an argument that Berry’s worker’s compensation exclusivity and that any ordinary person would have suffered just exactly in such a situation.
When asked by Bloomberg if Berry would be taking any further legal actions, Lawrence Organ, Berry’s lawyer, said that he wouldn’t that the case stops right here.
Tesla didn’t respond to Insider’s request for comment. In a blog post from November 2017 written in response to a lawsuit about alleged racism at its Fremont factory, the company said it is “absolutely against any form of discrimination, harassment, or unfair treatment of any kind.
There were about 103 sworn testimonies, obtained by Protocol during a 2017 lawsuit filed by former Black workers at Tesla’s Fremont plant and Melvin Berry’s was one of those testimonies.