Although there are over 11 million road vehicles that run on natural gas as fuel worldwide, Tesla has been long-since considered a leader in the electric car movement. The company has also made solar power more accessible, making it possible for homeowners and commercial businesses to reduce their carbon footprint. But in the wake of the company’s recent mass firing in which 700 employees lost their jobs, former workers have raised some major issues about Tesla that beg the question: is the company as noble as it seems?
Approximately 57% of organizations view employee retention as a problem, but Tesla’s decision to fire such a large number of employees has raised eyebrows. In early October, Tesla confirmed that the company fired around 2% of their employee base due to poor performance, following third-quarter performance reviews.
To some, the timing of the terminations is a bit suspicious. The United Auto Workers organization has subsequently filed a federal complaint against Tesla, alleging that some workers were let go for being pro-union. Tesla employees who were pushing to unionize at the company’s Fremont, California factory held a rally to protest the layoffs.
Some fired employees are even alleging that they had no indication they would be terminated. Frank Morales, an employee at Tesla for four years, received years of strong performance reviews but was let go “with no warning.” Many other employees found themselves in the same situation but have refused to sign a separation agreement, which bars employees from speaking out against the company or the executives who carried out the firing, that they felt was restrictive and unfair. According to the San Jose Mercury News, these employees would be specifically barred from criticizing Elon Musk; in exchange, they would receive two weeks’ severance pay, were they to sign.
Many employees have also claimed that Tesla targeted LGBT and African American employees. In fact, more than 100 black Tesla workers have filed a lawsuit that alleges that the company’s production floor is a “hotbed for racist behavior” wherein African American workers have endured extensive harassment due to their race. These employees are currently seeking judicial permission to sue as a group. If they are permitted to go forward, they will seek unspecified general and punitive monetary damages and an order to force Tesla to implement policies related to the prevention and correction of workplace harassment.
Although research shows that ethnically-diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform their peers, there’s far more to that success than merely hiring workers of color. According to one African American worker, Marcus Vaughn, other Tesla employees and supervisors regularly used the “N-word.” When the worker submitted an HR complaint in response, the worker was fired for “not having a positive attitude.”
In the complaint filed with California courts, employees explained: “Although Tesla stands out as a groundbreaking company at the forefront of the electric car revolution, its standard operating procedure at the Tesla factory is pre-Civil Rights era race discrimination.”
This is far from the first time Tesla has come under fire for maintaining an allegedly hostile work environment. The company has been hit with physical harassment suits and even fired a female employee who sued for sexual harassment.