Tesla memo: Essential employees, including production, should still come to work

Key Points
  • An e-mail sent to Tesla employees by the company's head of HR for North America, Valerie Workman, encouraged employees to work if they feel comfortable doing so on March 18.
  • The email says Tesla received conflicting guidance from different levels of government amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and shelter-in-place orders in Fremont, California where its US car plant is based. 
Paul Jacob works on the general assembly of the Tesla Model 3 at the Tesla factory in Fremont, California, on Thursday, July 26, 2018.
Mason Trinca | The Washington Post | Getty Images

Tesla's North America HR leader Valerie Workman sent an email to employees on Wednesday morning encouraging them to come work, promising they would not be "docked" points in performance reviews if they chose to stay home, and explaining why the Fremont factory and other facilities are up and running amid a COVID-19 pandemic in and beyond California. 

The email says Tesla has received conflicting guidance from different levels of government amid the pandemic.

Tesla is reportedly running its Fremont, California car plant running Wednesday morning despite "shelter in place" orders initiated across Alameda County (and other counties in the San Francisco Bay Area) to curb the COVID-19.coronavirus outbreak.

On Tuesday, Alameda County said it does not deem Tesla's Fremont plant an "essential business" and therefore expected Tesla to run it with "minimum basic operations" only -- not cranking out new cars. 

Alameda County Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly told CNBC on Wednesday, "Our directive was clear." He reiterated that Tesla's Fremont plant is not seen as an "essential business" under the health order in place in the county.

Tesla shares closed down 16% on Wednesday amid a major market sell-off.

Here is the entire e-mail from Wednesday morning: 

Hi Team!

 We still do not have a final word from the City, County, State and, Federal Government on the status of our operations. We have had conflicting guidance from different levels of government.

Until then, we are operating with Essential Employees only while all others are working from home, and working to incorporate all CDC guidelines into our operations. 

There are no changes in your normal assignment and you should continue to report to work if you are in an essential function: production, service, deliveries, testing and supporting groups as discussed with your manager. If you are not assigned to support an essential function, your manager might suggest a temporary relocation to support essential functions, or you may need to be on call.

 If you are not feeling well, please stay at home and use PTO. If your PTO balance is low, you can borrow up to 80 hours (2 weeks), after you exhaust your PTO balance. Please inform your manager and follow the normal procedures for sick time.

If you cannot or are reluctant to come to work, you can also use your PTO. Please inform your manager. You can also take unpaid time off, after your exhaust your PTO. You will not be penalized for your decision. There will be no disciplinary action for attendance based on health or impossibility to come to work. 

We will communicate with everyone again tonight and we appreciate all you are doing to keep safe social distance.

Thank you!


Valerie Capers Workman | North America HR + AU/NZ/JP/KR
Registered In House Counsel
[address and contact information redacted]