Hustling in the time of COVID-19, or: What if Elon Musk is just a bad boss?

By Harrison Weber


Under pressure from unionized workers, the Big Three carmakers in the U.S. agreed to temporarily wind down operations at their factories to protect employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. But if your boss is Elon Musk, “you should continue to report to work if you are in an essential function,” Tesla’s human resources department reportedly told workers today.

On Wednesday the company told employees doing “essential” work at its Fremont, California, factory to come in, TechCrunch reports, despite a conflicting “shelter in place” order from local officials that deemed Tesla not to be an essential business.

Tesla’s definition of “essential” is pretty expansive, and includes workers facilitating deliveries:

“There are no changes in your normal assignment and you should continue to report to work if you are in an essential function: production, service, deliveries, testing and supporting groups as discussed with your manager. If you are not assigned to support an essential function, your manager might suggest a temporary relocation to support essential functions, or you may need to be on call.”

According to the memo published by TechCrunch, these workers can choose to stay home, but they must do so at the expense of their current and future personal time off. Tesla, which has fought tooth and nail to stop workers from organizing, told workers they can “borrow up to 80 hours (2 weeks) after you exhaust your PTO balance,” according to the memo.

Fast Company has reached out to Tesla for more clarity and will update if we hear back.

On Twitter over the last few weeks, Tesla CEO’s has appeared to question the health risks posed by the spread of the new coronavirus. In a series of tweets that rival those of notorious “bad poster” and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, the celebrated tech CEO told his 32.4 million followers that “Fear is the mind-killer,” that “danger of panic still far exceeds danger of corona imo,” and also, “Fear the memesphere.”

As a reminder, Elon Musk is not a public health expert, and we should not take his chatter on the topic seriously. We should, however, judge Musk by the actions Tesla has taken today.


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