Tesla Inc. has been ruled as having violated U.S. labour law by the National Labour Relations Board (NLRB) due to managers at an Orlando repair shop instructing employees not to discuss pay or conditions and blocking complaints to higher levels of management. They also silenced several workers who complained about new hires being paid more. Administrative Law Judge Michael Rosas ordered Tesla to cease and desist from any further wrongdoing, and post notice of the violations in the service centre and email it to its employees. Tesla is facing numerous lawsuits alleging race and sex discrimination at its assembly plants, but denies wrongdoing in those cases. The automaker is also appealing against NLRB cases concerning disallowing factory workers from wearing union t-shirts and Elon Musk’s tweet that employees would lose stock options if they joined a union. Tesla did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
A group of workers at the collision shop in Orlando became aware in late 2021 that new hires were being paid a higher hourly rate than existing workers. Several complaints were filed, including one by a technician who contacted a Tesla vice president who then forwarded his complaint to the company’s head of human resources. However, management held a meeting instructing the facility’s 25 employees not to discuss their pay or other working conditions or file complaints with higher-level managers; the technician who complained was fired weeks after. The ruling by the judge stems from a complaint filed with the NLRB by the technician last year.
Tesla’s defence was that it had immediately rejected the managers’ comments by posting a notice in the service centre that stated the policy allowed workers to discuss their pay; but this statement was deemed insufficient by the judge. The manager’s instructions were found to violate employee rights under U.S. labour law to band together to advocate for better working conditions.
This latest NLRB ruling is a blow for Tesla, whose behaviour towards their employees is in question in relation to their failure to provide safe working conditions during Covid and other allegations. Although this is a global phenomenon for corporations ignoring workers’ rights, Tesla’s status as an industry leader and its high visibility make its conduct more noteworthy.
Tesla has been scrutinised in recent years over working conditions, and exits of multiple executives and plant managers have raised alarm bells. The company has been alleged to pressure employees to produce cars quickly at the expense of quality or safety, sometimes against the judgement of knowledgeable employees. Its assembly plants have also been dogged by charges of discriminatory behaviour, but maintains that it acts with integrity and fairness.