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Tesla ran over worker rights, again, US labor judge finds

Go on, Elon, tweet a meme, that'll straighten this all out

Tesla broke US labor laws yet again, a watchdog concluded, this time not by suppressing labor organizing, but by prohibiting workplace discussion of wages and complaints, and blocking employees from appealing to higher-level managers. 

As a result of a National Labor Relations Board judge's ruling [PDF] this week, Tesla will have to cease and desist from 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. Those notices will state that it's OK to talk about pay at work.

There appears to be no other punishment: Tesla has to promise to not break the law in future.

This saga started around the end of 2021, the NLRB found, when several employees at the Florida Tesla collision center fixing the electric cars' fender benders became concerned that new staff were being hired at a higher rate of pay than those already working at the body shop. 

Despite Tesla's own "open floor" policy, which the NLRB noted gives employees "the right to freely discuss their wages, benefits and terms and conditions of employment, and to raise complaints internally or externally," a manager at the shop responded to employee pay rate concerns by telling employees in an all-hands meeting not to discuss such matters. 

The same supervisor also told employees in the meeting not to complain "about pay or any other issues" to anyone higher than the regional manager. 

At least one employee decided that was unsatisfactory, and elevated the issue to Tesla's VP of sales, service, and delivery Troy Jones. Shortly after, the employee who planned to speak to Jones was suspended, with supervisors accusing him of threatening violence, which the employee denied.

When the employee was suspended, other team members at the shop were told in another all-hands meeting that they weren't allowed to talk about the suspension. The suspended employee was later fired. 

NLRB, we have a problem

The NLRB's response to the complaint, filed this time last year by the terminated employee, was that Tesla had pretty much done everything it was possible to do wrong in the situation, including posting a "deficient" notice to employees when it was first informed of the NLRB investigation.

Tesla violated Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act in multiple instances related to the Orlando complaint, the NLRB said, by telling employees not to discuss pay, not to escalate complaints beyond facility management, and by telling the terminated employee that "if I were you I wouldn't talk to anybody" about the circumstances surrounding his firing. 

This isn't the first time Tesla has been found guilty of violating the National Labor Relations Act, though earlier prior complaints have mostly centered on unionization efforts. 

The NLRB hit Tesla with an official complaint in 2017 over prohibiting union activities at several locations, and in 2021 the NLRB issued a ruling finding that Elon Musk's electric car company had in fact broken the law by suppressing union organizers. 

Employees at Tesla's Buffalo, New York Autopilot division announced plans to unionize in February of this year; the company fired a good chunk of them the next day, triggering an NLRB complaint that the termination was unlawful. ®

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