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Owen and the Beanstalk 

Or How to Sue Your Employer for Workplace Abuse: Tesla Edition

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Owen Diaz is a name you might hear once or twice this year and then will fade from your memory, lost like the plots of all those books we read in school. But I urge you to remember it. 

Diaz is Black and of Mexican descent. He lives in California. He’s a father. He is working-class man. 

He is also a man who was just awarded the largest jury award to single plaintiff in U.S. history. 

Diaz took his former employer, Tesla Inc., to court for discrimination and workplace abuse. Now, the giant electric carmaker must pay Diaz a whopping $137 million.  

On the surface this is the story of David and Goliath. It is about a seemingly powerless boy taking on a powerful, strong man twice his size, a challenge obviously of unmatched opponents. But on deeper analysis, this case more closely resembles parts of Jack and the Beanstalk. Owen Diaz as our Jack, cunning, observant and diligent, who sells the family cow for some magic beans from which sprouts the colossal titular beanstalk, the proverbial channel between those with power and those subjugated or abused by it. The Giant, – in this case Tesla – greedy and imposing, remains entirely unaware of the damage Jack is poised to cause; by hiding in plain sight, Jack is set up to reclaim the wealth that the Giant has stolen from the vulnerable people below. With a mixture of courage and tenacity, even after being found out by the Giant, Jack keeps on, determined to reclaim not only his family’s gold, but their dignity as well. Is this a perfect parallel? Not at all. But there is something to the imagery of Jack hacking the giant’s beanstalk down that works here. This case is the beginning of the all-powerful beanstalk’s timely demise and there will be other, Owens and Jacks and other Giants who face similar fates. 

The case is sure to set a precedent for workplace abuse claims, according to attorney Jonathan LaCour. LaCour is Founder of Employees First Labor Law of Los Angeles, a firm that services folks who are wrongfully terminated, discriminated against, harassed, or injured at their workplace. 

LaCour lent his expertise and perspective on the case. He shared that, “society as a whole is rebuking the idea that Black and Brown communities should be subjected to this type of harassment, this type of hostile work environment, on the basis of race.” 

The jury found that Tesla failed to adequately protect its employee from exactly that. At a Tesla factory in Fremont, CA, Diaz shared experiences of racial slurs being thrown around on the work floor, swastikas drawn in bathrooms and other such racist horrors. When he brought these instances up with his superiors, they eventually fired two of the accused perpetrators and suspended one. But after a year of enduring this toxicity, Diaz left his job in 2016. He, his son, and another coworker who had similar complaints then contacted a legal team headed by attorney Bernard Alexander and pursued Elon Musk’s giant corporation with a quickness. 

Tesla plant, in Fremont, Calif. where Owen Diaz worked (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

As my guest, LaCour was forthcoming about this process. It was not overnight that Owen Diaz vs Tesla came to be. It took a full four years. 

This is where most workplace abuse claims just dissipate. Between private arbitration, the time and money it takes to get a case together, to lack of evidence that would hold up in a court of law, many of these incidents go unreported or unnoticed altogether. 

Workplace violence is defined as any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site that would affect the victim(s) emotionally or physically. 

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute’s findings, about 60.4 million U.S. workers are affected by emotionally abusive conduct at their jobs, with 61 percent of perpetrators being bosses or superiors. Additionally, 19 percent of people in the United States witness and are present for abuse in the workplace, whether physical or emotional. Many who attempt to pin some sort of responsibility on their companies get tied up in arbitration or simply say nothing for fear of retaliation. 

Something unique about Owen’s case as well is that there was no wrongful termination charge – he left voluntarily. LaCour said it was emblematic of how strong a case the prosecution had against Tesla. The jury award cannot be taxed and is set to accrue a fair amount of interest. 

The breakdown of the funds is as follows: $130 million for punitive damages and $6.9 million for emotion distress. 

The company has been tight-lipped about its part in this, but in a press release on its website they mentioned that the workplace culture has improved and that the n-word was only used on the floor in a “friendly manner”. In court, Tesla’s legal representation was intent on pushing the narrative that Mr. Diaz was blowing things out of proportion and that all his previous claims were investigated and resolved. There is a chance that Tesla could appeal and find a way to weasel out of paying the full sum. But that would take time. And no matter the outcome, interest will accumulate. 

It is a victory all around, and quite the precedent. This will show all the people who have dealt with similar toxic workplace environments that the fight is worth it; that their voices, like Owen Diaz’s, actually might be heard. 

 Like in the first few highly publicized cases of sexual harassment or assault, there will be a domino effect. Mr. LaCour said he expects to see a wave of court cases just like Owen Diaz vs Tesla, though that it also means that companies and corporations will scramble to adapt employment documents in the interest of self-preservation. 

Maybe this is the real issue unraveling at hand. Why are we so intent on silencing dissent or those who are victims of abuse? Why is it so difficult for corporations to receive feedback from employees and not gaslight them? Is it so impossible not to take advantage of our workforce, to foster healthy relationships between employee and employer? 

This is the part of the culture that does bear urgent examination, workplaces being a microcosm of social spaces. Sure, it’s great that we can prosecute the guilty parties, but it should not be this way to begin with. Diaz vs Tesla Inc. is igniting a broader discussion about the appropriate and sensitive way to hold big business (thus, ourselves) accountable. 

The award for damages is unfathomably large but that is the price you pay for sweeping casually violent racism and abuse under the rug. We have begun to reevaluate the literal worth of the quality of human life. And thanks to Owen Diaz, today’s price is most certainly not yesterday’s price – it’s much, much higher. 

Syd is an LA-based performer, writer, Erupt moderator who can't stop talking and genuinely believes art can save the world.

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Why No One Is Truly Opposed to Dumb COVID Rules

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A staffer holds up a sign to advise fans of the mandatory mask rule in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game between Tennessee and Colorado Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Animals,

Let’s face it. We all work in customer service. If you sell car insurance, you better be ready to provide speedy payment to your clients when a tree falls onto their Prius.

And if you’re a doctor who wants to keep his patients, you’d better treat them with respect. That means short waiting room times and pretending that their questions (“Does this rash mean I have cancer”) aren’t as crazy as they sound.

Then there are professionals in 100% service-based industries like marketing, law, and — GASP – government. For them, customer service is arguably the most important part of the job.

In these industries, clients don’t really understand what you do for them, so appearing to be responsive, empathetic, and on-top of things is half the job.

Which brings us to Joe Biden’s COVID speech on Thursday, where he laid out his “Winter Plan” to stop COVID’s seasonal spike that happens whenever the weather gets cold.

President Biden speaks at the National Institutes of Health, Dec. 2, 2021, in Bethesda, Md. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Lurking in the background of Biden’s speech was the omicron variant, which some experts fear will bring new dangers to our shores.

The president proposed several interventions to dampen omicron and COVID’s winter spike, but if we’re being honest, his speech was really just a customer service exercise. It was President Joe Biden attempting to convince his clients – voters – that he’s responsive, empathetic, and on top of things.

As The Washington Post reported: “The president’s plan includes campaigns to increase vaccinations and booster shots, more stringent testing for international travelers and plans to make rapid at-home coronavirus testing free for more people.”

So basically… more of the same, plus an annoying COVID test if you travel internationally.

That doesn’t sound like much news at all.

(AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

By now, we know that COVID policies like mandatory masking and compulsory testing aren’t going to deliver great results, especially in an increasingly vaccinated America. Deep down, most of us probably agree that these policies are more about creating the appearance that our leaders are on top of things than actually yielding compelling public health benefits.

But is there another way for Joe Biden? Should he just sit in the White House and do nothing, as his critics in the Republican Party demand?

And would President Ron DeSantis or President Nikki Haley really act differently, if given the chance? Would they want to be on the hook personally for preventable death, even if it meant burdening Americans with dumb masking and testing rules that cut against their small government philosophy?

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

The national debate surrounding COVID boils down to risk. The president and many others believe that added COVID mandates, as onerous as they may be, are worth it because they’ll save lives. Critics see it the other way. They believe that continuing to disrupt American life is causing greater damage to the economy and the nation’s social fabric than whatever the public health benefits these mandates may hold.

Both arguments are true. And that’s why it stinks to be the president.

Joe Biden’s bully pulpit has enormous power when it comes to shaping the world’s opinion about any given issue. Unfortunately, the virus isn’t listening.

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Alex “Keendawg” Keeney is a media personality whose work has been published widely. He has worked as a Congressional aide, TV writer, and marketing executive for the real Wolf of Wall Street. Follow him on Twitter @keendawg.

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Queen Nicki Leaves No Crumbs After Hosting the RHOP Reunion| The Tea

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Plus, Kanye’s Heartbreak, Celebrity Illness shockers and Jen Shah’s legal woes just got worse.

On this episode of “The Tea” Ashley, Blake and Brie dive into celebrity illness and heartbreak. To share, or not to share, that is the question. 

Keep reading and watch the episode below for fresh takes on the latest entertainment and celebrity news shot live from the Erupt studio in Hollywood.

RIP Virgil Abloh

On Sunday November 28, the fashion and entertainment community lost designer and fashion visionary Virgil Abloh.

He was the first African American artistic director at Louis Vuitton and founded the renowned culture and streetwear brand Off-White.

Abloh kept his 2-year battle with cardiac angiosarcoma, a rare cancer of the heart, hidden from most. He was 41.

“The Tea” hosts discuss Abloh’s decision to keep his diagnosis a secret like some stars including Chadwick Boseman and Robin Williams, versus stars who choose to share their battles publicly, like Selma Blair and Christina Applegate.

(AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
(Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Kanye Wants His Family Back

Kanye West, who was a close friend to Virgil Abloh, took to social media over the weekend expressing his intention to bring his family back together. Saying that doing so would influence millions of other families to reconcile too.

As reported in earlier episodes of The Tea, there is speculation Ye’s estranged wife, Kim Kardashian, is currently dating comedian Pete Davidson.

Could Kimye 2.0 be in our future? The Tea hosts discuss.

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Jen Shah’s Right-Hand Man Pleads Guilty

Real Housewives of Salt Lake City star Jen Shah along with her personal assistant Stuart Smith were charged with fraud back in March.

Initially, Smith gave a not guilty plea but recently flipped his plea to guilty.

Shah still maintains her innocence.

(Bravo TV)

Nicki Hosts RHOP Reunion

Nicki Minaj took over Andy Cohen’s chair to host episode 4 of the Real Housewives of Potomac reunion and we are here for it!

Nicki didn’t hold back and asked all the questions we’ve been dying to know. On top of that, no housewife was spared. 

They all got the smoke-equally.

Could celebrity reunion hosts bring new life to the housewives’ franchise? 

The hosts discuss who we’d love to see host next.

Watch The Tea get spilled here:

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The Omicron “Scary-iant” & Football Funny Money | Political Drinking Games

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Animals,  

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year has just intersected with the most wonderful time of the week. 

By that I mean, it’s time to put a little Christmas spirit into Erupt’s political drinking games. 

On offer this week: 

  • The world has a new COVID variant. Congratulations, omicron! 
  • Twitter has a new CEO. Will he be as powerful as his predecessor, Jack Dorsey? 
  • CNN cancels Chris Cuomo (“suspends”) for using his anchorman powers to help embattled brother, Andrew 
  • The USA and EU cancel South Africa in COVID panic 
  • Trump’s top advisor sets a date with Congress to snitch on the Boss 
  • The NFL and College football continue to spend ridiculous amounts of money on truly ridiculous things.  
  • The term “Happy Holidays” gets put to rest. 

AND… A VERY SPECIAL GUEST JOINS: 

Curt Mills, contributing editor at The American Conservative and also a writer for Un-Herd. We’ll see how this silk-stocking Washington, D.C., columnist holds up in our chamber of pain.  

WATCH THIS WEEK’S POLITICAL DRINKING GAMES:

Alex “Keendawg” Keeney is a media personality whose work has been published widely. He has worked as a Congressional aide, TV writer, and marketing executive for the real Wolf of Wall Street. Follow him on Twitter @keendawg. 

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