When Tesla re-opened its Fremont plant early last month, after jousting with Alameda County and the state government of California, it told workers they could stay home if they didn’t feel well.
If “you feel uncomfortable coming back to work at this time, please do not feel obligated to do so,” one e-mail highlighted by the Washington Post said at the time.
But today, WaPo is reporting that two workers who took advantage of this offer and stayed home have received termination notices for “failure to return to work” after they opted to take unpaid leave in order to protect themselves and their families from the virus.
The company told the workers – Carlos Gabriel and Jessica Naro – that it couldn’t get in touch with them after they failed to show up.
But the report says it examined evidence of the workers’ continuing correspondence with managers at the time. The workers believe they were fired due to speaking out about Covid-19 concerns.
Naro says after receiving the notice she got a call from the company telling her she could come back.
In early June we noted that workers at Tesla’s Fremont factory had tested positive for the virus just days after the factory re-opened. Those who tested positive all worked on the same part of the assembly line.
Further, due to the company’s agreement with Alameda County, wherein it wasn’t required to report known cases before the agreement: “Positive cases among employees who were not residents of Alameda County, even though the factory is located in the county, might not have been reported.”
Workers at Tesla said the restart of production was an “environment of fear”, according to WaPo.
One employee said of Tesla’s lack of precautions: “No social distancing at all when clocking in/out [because] people are … in a hurry to go home or get back to their work station. As far as social distancing, management don’t say anything to the associates [because] they’re not doing it either.”
The worker said the changes were “like nothing but with a mask on”
Recall on June 13, we wrote that Tesla’s Head of Safety claimed – without any kind of scientific proof – that employees who tested positive for Covid-19 had not contracted it at Tesla’s headquarters.
Tesla’s head of environment, health and safety claimed that Tesla “had zero COVID-19 workplace transmissions,” since restarting operations at Fremont in May. In other words, Tesla was blaming the transmission on what employees are doing outside of the workplace.
“Since we restarted operations, we have had zero COVID-19 workplace transmissions. COVID-19 exposure has occurred outside the workplace primarily through family members or housemates, and in most instances, the employee followed safety protocol, informed their manager and stayed home or went to get tested,” an early June e-mail stated.
We found it to be a bold claim to make without having the science to back up how one arrives at the conclusion of where and when virus transmissions take place.