July 1, 2020 – Workers and labor activists alike are both claiming that Tesla is threatening to fire employees that won’t return to the California factory for fears of catching COVID-19.
The factory is in Fremont, near the San Francisco Bay Area.
Elon Musk reopened the Fremont Plant on May 11th, despite Alameda County’s order to stay closed. Musk argued that the company was considered essential under federal guidelines, even though the county health department deemed the factory nonessential and therefore temporarily shut down.
However, the next day, the health department allowed the plant to return to manufacturing contingent upon its adherence to health and safety guidelines for their workers.
Musk told workers that they did not have to return to the plant if they didn’t feel comfortable doing so.
Tesla worker Carlos Gabriel, among others, said he has heard that there are cases of COVID-19 at the Fremont factory, but doesn’t know the numbers because the company isn’t being transparent about it. Tesla has taken it upon themselves to do contact tracing and recording cases, but Gabriel wants the health department to take over.
“There are people we are paying to keep us safe, and they’re just turning the other cheek,” said Gabriel. “They should be holding (Tesla CEO) Elon Musk accountable.”
Branton Phillips, another Tesla worker, said he feels unsafe at the plant because many of his coworkers don’t properly wear their masks and often remove them. He said they also don’t maintain social distancing outside of the plant. He has a longtime girlfriend vulnerable to the virus who he worries about getting sick.
“I had to go back. I need the (medical) insurance,” Phillips said. He said there is also a lot of confusion because employees have been threatened with being fired but are also told they won’t be fired.
Tesla claimed last week in Texas at a public hearing that the Fremont worker’s claims about being threatened with termination were false. Tesla said they have released plans to keep workers safe, which include temperature checks, providing gloves and masks, enforcing social distancing and creating physical barriers between workers.
Tesla isn’t the only auto factory experiencing problems with workers returning to the plant. Two Fiat Chrysler plant assembly lines in Detroit shut down briefly this week as well amid COVID-19 concerns. An SUV factory in Arlington, Texas is calling for General Motors to close and clean it.
According to the United Auto Workers (UAW) spokesman Brian Rothenberg, the union sent representatives to the two Fiat Chrysler plants and the Texas factory to investigate. The UAW does not know how many workers have tested positive at each of the plants.
GM said in a statement that they are following safety protocols in Arlington and the protocols are working. They claim that the workers tested positive for COVID-19 because “there is no vaccine or cure.”
Wrongful termination is illegal, and if you or your loved one was dismissed from work without lawful cause, you may be entitled to economic and non-economic damages. Contact our top-rated labor and employment lawyers at the Mesriani Law Group and schedule a free consultation today.