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3 Takeaways after Tesla Sees Race Bias Damages Slashed

Law360 Employment Authority

A recent $3.2 million race bias damages award against Tesla in a case where a jury previously said the electric vehicle maker should pay $137 million shows that having separate trials on liability and damages can be good for employers accused of discrimination, experts say.


"This lawsuit showcases the unpredictability of going to trial, and what one jury may see and another might see," said Caitlin Sanders, a partner in Blank Rome LLP's labor and employment practice group. "It is going to give both the plaintiffs bar and the defense bar more to think about when they're deciding whether to resolve the case or go to trial."


While Tesla didn't seek out this two-phase structure, this kind of bifurcated process can actually be a boon for employers and may have aided Tesla in Diaz's case, said Blank Rome's Sanders.

"That second jury didn't hear as much testimony about the underlying harassment," Sanders said. "And it was a much more abbreviated trial."

Sanders, who represents employers, said separating the jury presentations on liability and damages can mitigate some of the financial fallout companies may face. A trial on only damages is usually a shorter affair, she said, and contains evidence specifically homed in the amount a worker is owed rather than on underlying allegations. 

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"3 Takeaways after Tesla Sees Race Bias Damages Slashed," by Anne Cullen was published in Law360 Employment Authority on April 4, 2023.