Some Tesla workers who were originally informed that they were not “required” to report for shifts at the company’s production facility in Fremont, California, as it reopened during the coronavirus pandemic, have in fact received termination notices, the Washington Post reported Thursday.
Tesla employees Carlos Gabriel and Jessica Naro told the Post that they had received notices saying they had been fired for “not returning to work” while taking unpaid leave, which the company promised to not result in discipline.
Both employees said they believe they were targeted for expressing concerns about working conditions at the Fremont plant; They both received callbacks from Tesla’s human resources department, but only Naro was later told that he could keep his job (if he set a specific return date). Gabriel specifically received an email from Tesla’s interim director of human resources, Vince Woodard, in May, saying “there’s no need to feel like you’re going to lose your job” and “you can stay home without penalty and take time without paying”.
Another half-dozen Tesla employees who spoke to the Post detailed the lack of social detachment at the Fremont plant, even during meetings, and the poor enforcement of policies that mandate masks and machine cleanliness. Production line worker Branton Phillips told the newspaper: “It is hot and sweaty there, we are working 11 hours a day and we are stressed.” It is creating real situations, sometimes very tense inside. ”
Tesla has been repeatedly hit by retaliation against workers who complain about conditions, including union organizers and an engineer who said there was rampant sexual harassment and salary discrimination in the company. Numerous workers reportedly expressed their apprehension about returning to the Fremont facility, which CEO Elon Musk reopened in flagrant violation of an Alameda County health order. (Musk is a coronavirus skeptic who repeatedly issued misinformed claims the threat of the virus was exaggerated). Tesla reportedly workers threatened that their unemployment benefits could be reduced if they did not return in violation of that order, although the county eventually relented amid a lawsuit and claimed that the two parties had An agreement was reached.
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According to the Post, one Tesla worker said employees “hover over each other,” while another said employees had been missing from work for two weeks in a row, and managers often refer to employees as “sick.” without further explanation. Alameda County officials told the newspaper that they are reviewing their policies to see what data on Tesla’s coronavirus cases they could disclose. Tesla did not respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment and has not released any information publicly. However, Alameda County has seen more than 5,200 confirmed cases.
Musk “is causing countless problems for his workers,” said Jane McAlevey, a union organizer and senior policy fellow at the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education. “It has stressed them out: there is a great story there before the crisis of health and safety violations. They are saddled by the kinds of promises and rushed production that hurt people, and now they are doing it again during a pandemic. ”