Tesla HR boss Valerie Workman warned the company's California employees on Wednesday afternoon that if they are called back to work but choose to stay home due to Covid-19 concerns, they could lose unemployment benefits.
Workman suggested that decision would be up to the state of California and not Tesla.
"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. We completely respect your decision and will support you, without any penalties from us," the email said.
CEO Elon Musk reopened the company's main U.S. car plant in Fremont, California this weekend. He did so in defiance of local Covid-19 health orders from Alameda County Public Health.
Musk also took to Twitter over the weekend threatening to move Tesla's operations out of the state of California, promising to at least move its headquarters out of Palo Alto, and announcing that he was filing a lawsuit against Alameda County over the health orders that have restricted the company's operations in Fremont since late March in order to prevent a worse outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the region.
After his rant against the company's home state, Musk was bolstered by expressions of support from President Donald Trump and others. He was also buffeted with criticisms from the former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, and actor John Cusack, among others.
CNBC has requested an update from Alameda County Public Health and Fremont Police Department on the situation.
Local authorities have not yet said whether Tesla will face any repercussions for resuming vehicle production this past weekend. Nor have they said whether Fremont police, tasked with enforcement of the health orders, have tried to or been granted access to inspect the Tesla factory yet.
Here's what the human resources e-mail to employees said, on Wednesday:
To: Everyone CA
Wed. 5/13/2020 [timestamp redacted]
Yesterday, we met with Alameda County to review the comprehensive safety measures we have implemented to ensure employee safety. I'm pleased to share that local health officials announced last night that our Fremont factory can ramp up operations this week as we prepare for full production.
If you have already returned to the factory or have been asked by your manager to return this week, we are well-prepared to proceed safely and in alignment with all government precautions and the county's requested safety measures.
If you are on furlough and have not yet been called back to work or contacted, you will remain on furlough until you hear from your manager. You 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.
One other important note: 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. We completely respect your decision and will support you, without any penalties from us. If you have been called back to work, but have not received your last unemployment check, you can continue to work and expect to receive your final check from your state. Some states are backlogged given the current circumstances.
I'm excited to see some of you at Fremont this week. If you have any questions, reach out to your HR partners or [Ed: email redacted].
Thank You Team!
Valerie Capers Workman | North America HR +