Tesla has told employees at its Fremont, California, factory that they risk their unemployment benefits if they don’t get back to work on the assembly line following a seven-week coronavirus lockdown, according to a report.
“Once you are called back, you will no longer be on furlough so if you choose not to work, it may impact your unemployment benefits as determined by your local government agency — and not by Tesla,” according to an email from the electric automaker obtained by CNBC. “We completely respect your decision and will support you, without any penalties from us.”
Tesla CEO Elon Musk last week said that the car factory would be reopening against Alameda County orders that said it must remain closed in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The automaker over the weekend laid out a plan for reopening factories, publishing a 38-page “Return to Work Playbook” on Saturday which called for a wide range of precautions to keep plans clean and prevent the coronavirus from spreading among workers.
“We will continue to put people back to work in a safe and responsible manner,” Tesla wrote.
One Tesla factory worker told NBC News that though she had initially thought she would be able to return to work when she was comfortable, a supervisor told her in a phone call that a no-show could result in her being fired.
Another said that having his furloughed status removed if he did not return to the plant was a penalty in and of itself.
“I don’t think that’s a choice for me. I find my life to be a little more valuable,” the worker said. “You’re asking me to liberate myself from my home to go and risk my life? You call that freedom?”
Musk late last month blasted public officials’ directives to stay at home as “fascist,” saying they were “forcibly imprisoning people in their homes against all their constitutional rights.”
“It’s breaking people’s freedoms in ways that are horrible and wrong and not why they came to America or built this country,” Musk said during Tesla’s earnings call. “What the f–k? Excuse me. Outrage.”
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