Tech

Tesla returns to 'normal operations' at U.S. car and battery factories — read the email sent to production workforce

Key Points
  • Tesla HR told production employees in a memo obtained by CNBC that the company is returning to "normal operations," and it's resuming their regular attendance policy this week. 
  • The company is giving employees the option to take unpaid leave until May 31, with HR approval, if they are worried about exposing a household member to Covid-19. 
  • Tesla wound down operations at its main, U.S. car plant in Fremont, California as of March 24, but resumed production there the weekend of May 9 in defiance of earlier local health orders.
An aerial view of the Tesla Fremont Factory on May 13, 2020 in Fremont, California.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

Tesla's HR boss, Valerie Workman, said in an e-mail to employees on Wednesday night that the company is returning to "normal operations" at its Fremont, California, vehicle assembly plant and Sparks, Nevada, battery factory this week, with some health-related precautions in place.

Among other things, that means Tesla's regular attendance policy will be in place as of Friday, according to the memo, with one new provision: Those who want to stay home due to concerns about exposing a vulnerable member of their household to Covid-19 will have to file paperwork describing the situation to Tesla HR and get approval first for their unpaid leave. Once approved, they can take unpaid leave through the end of May.

The company is passing out masks to workers who need them, and performing temperature checks on workers as they arrive at the factory's doors. 

As CNBC has previously reported, Tesla's attendance policy gives workers points if they skip a shift without having accrued personal time off, or if they use personal time off without approval from managers. They get 2 points per absence and 1 point for tardiness, typically. A worker with 5 to 6 points can be terminated under the policy.

Elon Musk's electric vehicle and renewable energy company wound down to minimum basic operations at its main, U.S. car plant on March 24, and re-opened the factory the weekend of May 9 in defiance of local health orders. The Fremont Police Department told CNBC that it is not investigating "alleged production" that occurred at the Tesla vehicle plant before health orders were relaxed and a site-specific plan for the factory was approved by Alameda County Public Health.

Musk and Tesla filed a lawsuit against Alameda County after the county's public health leaders put restrictions in place that impacted the Tesla factory, in order to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the community. Tesla dropped the suit on Wednesday. 

Musk has promised to move Tesla's headquarters out of the state of California, and threatened to move Tesla's manufacturing operations and future projects out of the state, as well. However, California Governor Gavin Newsom said, in an interview with CNBC on May 19, that he doesn't worry about Tesla or Elon Musk making those moves any time soon.

"I've had a lot of conversations with him, and we're committed to the success and the innovation and the low-carbon, green growth economy that he's been promoting for decades and the state of California is accelerating in," Newsom said.  

Read the entire HR memo to Tesla's production workforce, transcribed by CNBC, here: 

From: HR 

To: Everyone-CA

Date: May 20, 2020

Subj. HR Update: May 20, 2020: Fremont Factory & Gigafactory Nevada

Hi Everyone, 

On Monday, May 18, Bay Area health officials eased shelter-in-place restrictions as a result of sustained progress in the containment of Covid-19. Specifically, they cited favorable health data showing a trend in stabilizing or declining new Covid [sic] cases and hospitalizations, as well as an increase in testing. This is great news for the health of our community, and it's exciting to begin the path to reopening some areas of the country.

Bay Area guidelines permit manufacturers to resume normal operations, and ease restrictions for retail, warehousing and other industries assuming all required safety precautions can be followed. This order, combined with the County's prior approval of our Return to Work health and safety protocols, and improving health and safety data means California is getting back to work. 

Specifically, this means a few important updates for Fremont Factory as well as Gigafactory Nevada: 

1.     We'll be reinstating our Attendance Policy this Friday, May 22 with a new provision:

*If an employee does not want to come to work out of concern that they might expose an at-risk member of their household, HR will provide the employee with a document the employee can sign and submit to confirm their situation and receive Unpaid Leave until May 31.

*If you are under Tesla-or doctor- directed quarantine, are sick with Covid [sic] symptoms, or have tested positive for Covid [sic],  you are not subject to the Attendance Policy and should continue to stay home. Please notify your manager and a Benefits team member will contact you to discuss Covid-19 Paid Leave of Covid-19 Exposure Paid Leave.

2.     Premium pay will continue through May 31 for those who are eligible in appreciation for your work during this challenging time.

3.     All health and safety precautions must continue to be followed, and we will be implementing additional checks and audits to ensure these policies are being followed. 

This email only applies to our production workforce and production-related office workers at our Fremont operations in Alameda County and Gigafactory Nevada. Those who can continue to work from home, should do so. In some areas of the country, additional restrictions continue and therefore please only report to work if your manager, HR partners or another Tesla representative has called you back to work. 

Thank you all for your continued diligence in helping to keep our Tesla team safe and healthy. Please continue to reach out to [Ed: e-mail redacted] with your HR-related questions.

Thank You Team! 

Valerie Capers Workman | North America HR+ EMEA & AU/NZ/JP/KR

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