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Tesla employees are laid off for ‘failure to return to work’ during the COVID-19 pandemic

Two Tesla employees say they were fired at the electric vehicle maker’s plant in Fremont, California, after being given permission to stay home on unpaid leave if they felt uncomfortable working at the facility during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Carlos Gabriel and Jessica Naro say they were terminated last week from their positions at the plant, which the EV maker’s CEO Elon Musk defiantly reopened in the second week of May after he insisted it was an essential service. 

The workers say employees were told by Musk in an email that ‘if you feel uncomfortable coming back to work at this time, please do not feel obligated to do so’.

However, Gabriel and Naro still received notices about their terminations, for ‘failure to return to work’. Human resources told the workers they were fired for failure to show up and difficulties in contacting them, although the employees say they had proof they remained in touch with their supervisors. 

Former Tesla employees Carlos Gabriel (pictured) and Jessica Naro say they were fired from their jobs at the electric vehicle maker’s plant in Fremont, California, after they were given permission to stay home, unpaid, if they felt uncomfortable working during COVID-19

Gabriel and Naro say they were terminated last week from their positions at the plant (pictured), which the EV maker's CEO and founder Elon Musk defiantly reopened in the second week of May after he insisted it was an essential service

Gabriel and Naro say they were terminated last week from their positions at the plant (pictured), which the EV maker’s CEO and founder Elon Musk defiantly reopened in the second week of May after he insisted it was an essential service

Gabriel and Naro say they believe they were fired because they were vocal about their concerns over plant working conditions during the pandemic, the Washington Post reports.

Both former workers, who had taken up the offer to stay home to protect their families from exposure to COVID-19, were later contacted by human resources. Naro was told she could return to work, but was asked to provide a specific date of when she would do so.   

The Post reports that at least a half-dozen more employees expressed similar worries about working conditions during the pandemic.

Some of the employees who came forward requested anonymity for fear of losing their positions because they did not have authorization to speak to media. 

The workers alleged that Tesla was not enforcing proper social distancing or other rules set up to contain the spread of the virus and protect workers, including requirements for masks and sanitizing plant equipment. 

Employees who spoke up also say they have not been briefed enough on the pandemic’s impact on the plant, or whom may have been infected. 

Workers alleged that Tesla was not enforcing proper social distancing or other rules set up protect workers, including requirements for masks and sanitizing plant equipment. A plant worker is pictured wearing a mask in an image taken by KPIX CBS

Workers alleged that Tesla was not enforcing proper social distancing or other rules set up protect workers, including requirements for masks and sanitizing plant equipment. A plant worker is pictured wearing a mask in an image taken by KPIX CBS

One worker complained that employees are ‘hovering over each other.’ Others say that employees are absent for up to two weeks at a time while coworkers are not informed the reasons why. 

Meanwhile, workers were told that at least two employees tested positive for COVID-19 at a nearby seat plant, and that at least three others were exposed to the virus, the Post reports. 

Branton Phillips, a worker on the Model S and Model X assembly lines, explained that the issue of employees wearing masks and those who do not is a reflection of the controversy over wearing facial coverings during the pandemic that has played out across the country.

Tesla workers are pictured wearing masks outside the plant after it reopened. Employees who have spoken out say they have not been briefed enough on the pandemic's impact on the plant, or whom may have been infected

Tesla workers are pictured wearing masks outside the plant after it reopened. Employees who have spoken out say they have not been briefed enough on the pandemic’s impact on the plant, or whom may have been infected

‘You’re reflecting what’s outside in the world inside the plant,’ explains the worker, who insists on taking precautions before returning home, including putting his clothes in a bag, to protect his wife who has two pre-existing conditions that make her more vulnerable to infection.

Musk, back on May 11, confirmed that Tesla resumed operations at the plant in defiance of the state’s coronavirus lockdown restrictions and even dared authorities to arrest him for the violation.

The plant, about 40 miles south of San Francisco, had been closed since March 23 in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Musk, back on May 11, confirmed that Tesla resumed operations at the plant in defiance of the state's coronavirus lockdown restrictions and even dared authorities to arrest him for the violation

Musk, back on May 11, confirmed that Tesla resumed operations at the plant in defiance of the state’s coronavirus lockdown restrictions and even dared authorities to arrest him for the violation

Musk at the time confirmed in a tweet that Tesla was restarting production at the facility ‘against Alameda County rules.’

‘I will be on the line with everyone else,’ he continued. ‘If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.’

The controversial move came as the latest salvo in an ongoing war between Musk and Alameda County, after Tesla filed a lawsuit against local officials for ordering the the Fremont facility to shutter until June.

Musk called the order ‘super messed up’ in a separate tweet, claiming that ‘all other auto companies in US are approved to resume. Only Tesla has been singled out.’

The plant, about 40 miles south of San Francisco, had been closed since March 23 in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Workers are pictured loading motor vehicle carriers with Tesla cars after the plant reopened

The plant, about 40 miles south of San Francisco, had been closed since March 23 in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Workers are pictured loading motor vehicle carriers with Tesla cars after the plant reopened

The parking at Tesla's Fremont, California, plant lot was nearly full after the facility reopened May 11 and employees began returning to the job during the coronavirus pandemic

The parking at Tesla’s Fremont, California, plant lot was nearly full after the facility reopened May 11 and employees began returning to the job during the coronavirus pandemic

The lawsuit was later withdrawn and the plant was given a pending approval to reopen on May 18, the same date rivals General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler were allowed to resume their plant operations.  

According to Business Insider, three employees said Tesla asked workers to return to the facility with phone calls and text messages, and if they refused, risked losing their jobs, the sources claimed.

Employees were seen reporting to the plant before sunrise that day in footage from local media outlet KPIX .

Within hours, the parking lot was nearly full at the plant – which employs 10,000 workers – and semis were seen driving off loaded with vehicles that may have been produced before the shutdown.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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