Employee voice | Tesla gets caught up in worker rights fracas, once again

Tesla gets caught up in worker rights fracas, once again

Tesla, the futuristic electric car company helmed by divisive business magnate Elon Musk, doesn’t have the best history when it comes to worker wellbeing, or policy.

Most of the claims made against the company originate from the back-and-forth battle that it upholds with workers' unions.

Back in 2019, Musk found himself in court following the firing of a worker involved in union organizing. At the same hearing, it was made public that Musk illegally threatened workers with the loss of stock options if they unionized.

In 2022, The National Labor Relations Board ruled that Tesla had once again violated workers’ rights when it told employees they couldn’t wear shirts with pro-union insignia at its factory.

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Now it’s been ruled that Tesla has, once again, broken US labor laws. This time not by attempting to squash unionising, or chastise those who bore the insignia of their union, but by ‘prohibiting workplace discussion of wages and complaints, and blocking employees from appealing to higher-level managers’.

The NLRB this time concluded that Tesla's ‘open floor’ policy, which allegedly gives employees "the right to freely discuss their wages, benefits and terms and conditions of employment, and to raise complaints internally or externally," was not only not followed through, but that it was actively discouraged by senior leaders.

In short, the firm can no longer push workers to keep quiet about pay, and must encourage their staff to raise concerns with its senior leadership team.

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As a result of the ruling, Tesla will be forced to stop violating labor laws, and will be required to ‘post notices in appropriate areas in the Tesla's Orlando workplace and mail them to all current and former employees’.

These notices will have to state that it's okay to talk about pay at work. Likely a gut-wrenching concept for Musk, given what we know about his feelings toward worker rights.

Yet, to the surprise of workers involved in the case, these requirements are the only punishment the firm will face for attempting to intimidate staff into silence.

It’ll come as a surprise to precisely no one when future cases in the same vein arise at the embattled company. Tesla, it seems, is an employer that would rather their people had very little voice.

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