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Tesla's Fremont plant will resume 'limited operations' on Friday

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Key Points
  • In a pair of e-mails send to all U.S. employees overnight, Tesla execs described their return to work plans, including limited operations at the company's U.S. car plant starting Friday.
  • The plant will bring back around 30% of employees normally working on a shift.
  • California lifted health and safety restrictions on manufacturing on Thursday, but that shift does not override county-level restrictions. 
Tesla Chief Executive Office Elon Musk speaks at his company's factory in Fremont, California.
Noah Berger | Reuters

Tesla CEO Elon Musk told employees in an e-mail sent overnight that the electric vehicle maker would attempt to restart production at its U.S. car plant in Fremont, California, on Friday afternoon.

Tesla's HR boss, Valerie Capers Workman, sent a separate e-mail to U.S. employees on Thursday night with additional details. She said Tesla's Fremont plant will resume "limited operations" Friday, bringing back around 30% of employees normally working on a shift.

It's not clear from the executives' emails how Tesla would be able to manufacture vehicles in Fremont with a reduced headcount.

While many remain on furlough, those employees called back must complete video training on new safety protocols meant to keep them safe from Covid-19, Workman said.

In the CEO's more brief communication, Musk cited a shift in health orders in the state. He wrote: 

"In light of Governor Newsom's statement earlier today approving manufacturing in California, we will aim to restart production in Fremont tomorrow afternoon. I will be on the line personally helping wherever I can. However, if you feel uncomfortable coming back to work at this time, please do not feel obligated to do so. These are difficult times, so thanks very much for working hard to make Tesla successful!"

California's order does not override county-level health orders. Alameda County, where the plant is located, has a shelter-in-place order effective through May 31, according to the county Public Health Department website.

CNBC reached out to the Alameda County Sheriff's Office and the Fremont Police Department for further information. Representatives were not immediately available to comment.

Read the entire HR e-mail from Tesla to its U.S. employees:

To: U.S. Employees

From: Valerie Capers Workman

Date: May 7, 2020 [time stamp redacted]

Subj. HR Update

Hi Everyone,

The State of California released new guidelines today permitting certain critical infrastructure including manufacturing to gradually resume operations. This includes Tesla's Fremont factory and supporting manufacturing facilities. Additionally, Alameda County, where the Fremont factory is located, states in its shelter in place order FAQs that distributed energy resource manufacturing, which includes electric vehicles, solar, and battery storage, is permitted to operate.

I know many of you are excited to get back to work, as we are too, and I am confident we are well-prepared to do so safely and in alignment with all government precautions. At all facilities, we've enhanced our already robust safety strategy in accordance with our Return To Work Plan, which we have reviewed extensively with Alameda County, and you will be receiving a video training from EHS which we ask you to complete promptly when assigned. It is critical that you comply with and follow all required safety protocols. If you do not follow these protocols you will be sent home on Unpaid Leave. If you are sick or have concerns with safely coming to work, please stay home. You may use your available PTO or if you have none, may take the time as unpaid without penalty. We respect your decision.

Starting tomorrow, May 8, 2020, limited operations will resume at the Fremont factory starting at 30% our normal headcount per shift. You will be contacted via email or phone by your manager or HR with details on your specific start date and time. Our Gigafactories in Nevada and New York have also begun limited operations as approved by their respective states. Similarly, Sales, Service and Delivery as well as Energy operations have been gradually coming back online on a state-by-state basis.

  • For those who have returned to work throughout the U.S. or have been called back to work, we look forward to your return. Look out for a call or email from your manager or another Tesla representative with details about your start date.
  • If you are on furlough and have not yet been called back to work or contacted, we hope to get you back to work soon. You will remain on furlough until you hear from your manager and can continue to apply for unemployment benefits and Tesla will continue to provide your health benefits.
  • If you have been working at home, and have not been called back to work, please continue to work from home.

If you are an hourly California employee and we were required to cash out your PTO under California law due to the furlough extension, you will be given the same number of unpaid days off as your accrued, unused PTO.

Don't hesitate to reach out to your HR partners or [e-mail redacted] with any questions.

Thank you for all you do to ensure the success of our company!

Valerie

[Contact information redacted]