Former Tesla employee awarded $1 million over racial discrimination

Former Tesla employee awarded $1 million over racial discrimination
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A former Tesla employee was awarded nearly $1 million following a ruling in a discrimination case arguing that the tech company did not intervene when supervisors at its California plant called the employee a racial slur.

Bloomberg News reported on Thursday that Melvin Berry, who is Black, was paid for his suffering after an arbitration proceeding.

Berry, 47, was reportedly hired in 2015 and quit nearly 18 months later. Bloomberg reported that at the Tesla plant where Berry worked as a materials handler, Black employees had filed several years of complaints accusing the company of ignoring the regular use of racial slurs and delaying cleaning graffiti that included swastikas and other hate symbols in common spaces.


Arbitration typically includes two parties attempting to resolve an issue outside of a judiciary court. Elaine Rushing, the arbitrator handling Berry's case, reportedly revealed in court documents that she found the case to be "difficult," noting that after hearing from witnesses on both sides she found that Berry's claims were credible.

Berry said that when he confronted his supervisors about the use of the racial slur he was in turn required to work longer hours and push a heavier cart.

“I hope the world knows that an arbitrator found Tesla treats its employees like this,” Berry told Bloomberg on Wednesday.

Rushing reportedly said that Tesla was responsible for the harassment that was directed toward Berry because it came from his supervisors.

“Case law is clear that one instance of a supervisor directing the N-word at a subordinate is sufficient to constitute severe harassment,” she said in a May 12 ruling, according to Bloomberg.

The Hill has reached out to Tesla for comment.

Tesla reportedly denied any wrongdoing in a 2017 statement obtained by Bloomberg.

“[Tesla] is absolutely against any form of discrimination, harassment, or unfair treatment of any kind," the company reportedly said at the time.

It also argued that no written evidence supported Berry's claims of emotional distress and that it had no record of him complaining to human resources about being called the racial slur.

According to Bloomberg, Rushing wrote that Berry suffered panic attacks, and anxiety as a result of his treatment to the point that he "became quiet and cried a lot” and “questioned his sanity.”

Rushing advised Tesla to award Berry $266,278.50 in damages, which included $100,000 for his emotional distress. The rest of the payment covers his legal fees and attorney costs.