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Judge Says Tesla Didn’t Stop Supervisors From Using N-Word — Ordered To Pay $1 Million To Black Former Employee

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Former Tesla employee, Melvin Berry, recently won $1 million through a lengthy arbitration case after he alleged two supervisors repeatedly called him racial slurs.

Berry worked at Tesla in 2015 where he was hired as a materials handler for Tesla Motors, Inc. Berry was excited to work there and planned to make a career for himself at the company, though that shortly soured.

Former Tesla employee says supervisors called him the n-word.

Berry alleged he was called the n-word by his supervisors while working in a Fremont, California Tesla auto plant.

After reporting the use of slurs, Berry claims that he was forced to work longer hours and to push a heavier cart around.

Tesla accused of creating a racially hostile work environment.

Elaine Rushing, the arbitrator in the case, believes that Berry's supervisors called Berry the racial slur and says racial symbols like swastikas were not always immediately removed.

Rushing finds that the racial slurs were severe or pervasive enough to affect his job and create a racially hostile work environment.

She says, "Case law is clear that one instance of a superior directing the N-word at a subordinate is sufficient to constitute severe harassment." 

Berry's lawyer said in a statement to CBS News, "We hope that this award of over $1 million will inspire change at Tesla and send a message to all employers that harassment and discrimination have no place at work."

Tesla failed to follow up with an investigation and permitted intolerable working conditions.

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Tesla is required to pay out $1.02 million

Out of that award, $755,579 will go towards attorney and legal fees.

This number was reached because the Arbitrator found that Berry was entitled to compensation for all of his attorney's fees and costs.

Tesla was also directed to pay Berry $266,278.50 in damages which included $100,000 for emotional distress.

These awards are subject to interest from January 7, 2021, until the judgment is satisfied. 

To reach this amount, the Arbitrator reviewed the work completed on the case, the result obtained, the motion, opposition, and reply.

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Tesla restricts their employees from suing in court.

Berry says his contract has a mandatory arbitration clause that gives up the employee's right to sue the company in court when you are hired.

Berry was regretful of signing the contract with Tesla that included an arbitration clause because he gave up his right to take his case to court.

Berry said, "The reason why you do it is, if you don't sign it, you don't get the job,"

One San Francisco lawyer, Cliff Palefsky, clarified that it's difficult for employees to win discrimination cases in arbitration because the evidence-gathering process is more restrictive than if the case had gone to court.

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Ciara Litchfield is a writer and first-generation college student. She works in news and expert content for YourTango. She enjoys reading, napping, and her dog.