Tesla Severance Packages Set To "Chill Valid Employee Complaints" About Safety Issues

Tesla is trying to silence former employees from speaking out about workplace safety issues, it appears from language being included in new severance packages.

Bloomberg reported today that Tesla is trying to curb former employees from speaking out about safety issues that they may have incurred on the job, and it is doing so by including new language in severance packages that it is issuing to 9% of its employee workforce that it is laying off.

Those employees who are accepting severance packages are being asked to give up certain rights as it relates to speaking publicly about workplace safety issues. The Bloomberg article noted:

Language in a confidential severance agreement Tesla Inc. is using as part of the biggest job cut in its history is likely to deter dismissed employees from going public with worker safety concerns, according to employment-law experts.

A proposed severance agreement Tesla presented to one of the more than 3,000 workers dismissed last week required acknowledgment that the employee “had the opportunity to raise any safety concerns, safety complaints, or whistleblower activities against the company, and that if any safety concerns, safety complaints, or whistleblower activities were raised during your employment, they were addressed to your satisfaction.”

The document obtained and reviewed by Bloomberg News also barred the former worker from sharing “business-related” information; required that the ex-employee assist Tesla’s defense against claims; released any claims made against Tesla; and dictated that any disputes under the agreement will be handled in individual arbitration.

The article continued with Tesla's response. Apparently the company has stated that the "language about safety matters to ensure that issues get addressed, according to a spokesman, who added that employees who don’t believe those words apply to their case should come forward and share their concerns."

Experts consulted by Bloomberg seem to agree that regardless of whether or not the language is the industry standard or not, it's likely being done to help absolve Tesla of any legal liabilities:

“I do think the agreement will chill valid employee complaints,” said Brishen Rogers, a law professor at Temple University. “A reasonable worker would just keep their mouth shut, rather than risk losing their severance pay.”


Some employment lawyers say the language offered by Tesla doesn’t depart much from what’s become standard in such situations. The agreement probably goes into greater detail about safety issues because they’ve been a subject of controversy for the company, said Paul Secunda, who directs Marquette University’s Labor & Employment Law Program.

“It might be -- because of some history with safety issues -- that they want to make sure that they’re not leaving unresolved safety issues with severed employees to be resolved later -- they’re trying to make this as final as possible,” said Secunda, who previously worked on severance agreements as an attorney for companies.

“When you’re an attorney working for a company like Tesla, what you’re trying to figure out is what kind of legal exposure does Tesla have, and what kind of certainty, predictability, and closure are you seeking to buy through these severance agreements,” he said. “Because you don’t want to have to deal with these in the future.”

This development comes after a  lawsuit was filed just two weeks ago by the former Safety Director of Tesla. We reported on that development here.

That lawsuit accuses Tesla of "unsafe and unhealthy working conditions and work practices,” including chemical and oil spills, chemical fires, workplace injury rate discrepancies and inaccuracies, and a failure to report or document workplace injuries."

Questions and concerns about workplace safety incidents at Tesla continue, with the latest chapter in the story coming from the company’s former safety director who is suing the company. In a lawsuit that was first reported by Jalopnik, the company’s former safety director alleges that he was fired in retaliation for bringing up concerns about safety and incident reporting - the same types of concerns that were detailed in a Reveal expose that was published in April. The Reveal expose prompted a safety investigation from California regulators. 

According to Jalopnik, Director of Environmental Health, Safety and Sustainability Carlos Ramirez – who had previously worked as Vice President of Safety for SolarCity – was fired in June 2017. Allegedly, in order to embrace his new job as director of safety at Tesla, he needed to audit the company's incident reporting system, which is essentially a database of accidents and injuries.

As he details in the lawsuit, once he looked into this incident reporting system that he found "numerous instances of lack of treatment of Tesla employees that suffered workplace injuries, recordkeeping violations, and improper classification of workplace injuries to avoid treating and reporting workplace injuries.”

He then reported all this to Tesla, who subsequently fired him weeks later in order to shut him up. He also alleges in the lawsuit that Tesla simply made untrue statements to the state and the public regarding safety at their Fremont plant.

As Jalopnik adds, workplace safety issues came to light after Reveal's expose in April:

Issues surrounding Tesla’s workplace records came to light in April, after the nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting’s publication Reveal put out a story that said Tesla improperly classifies injuries on the OSHA 300 report—paperwork by the government required to log serious work-related injuries and illnesses—which effectively bolstered its safety record.

California regulators launched an investigation the next day, without saying whether it was in response to Reveal’s report. Tesla vehemently denied the allegations and insisted its workplace injury rate is better than the auto industry’s average. (Incredibly, the automaker went so far as to label Reveal, a Pulitzer Prize-winning nonprofit news outlet, of being an “extremist organization.”)

Among other things, the Reveal article questioned the lack of the color yellow - used to mark risky areas or hazards in a factory setting. Reveal was told that this was because "Elon does not like the color yellow." Photos in the Reveal expose show plenty of red...

...but no little yellow.

The new Jalopnik article notes that Ramirez seemed to be front and center in noticing these very same issues, as well as questionable incident reporting standards. For instance, it was reported that during May he attended a workplace meeting where he reported unsafe working conditions. Weeks after that, according to the lawsuit, he was fired.


FiendNCheeses jcaz Mon, 06/18/2018 - 17:31 Permalink

That comes from data straight from the National Fire Protection Association and U.S. Federal Highway Administration, sucka!

The number of fires are about 5 per billion miles driven for a Tesla and almost 55 fires per billion miles driven for gasoline powered cars (I rounded down to 10).

You're welcome.

In reply to by jcaz

SamAdams directaction Mon, 06/18/2018 - 18:09 Permalink

All that red in the photo is a robot weld cell.  That is why there is no yellow.  It is not a regular walkway.  

Reveal doing a hit piece and Jalopnik backing it up?  I thought Musk was powered by Obama?  Guess maybe he got cut off?

BTW, a lot of street racers are hussling using the S.  Instantaneous max torque delivered to all four wheels makes it a rocket.  But yes, lots of electrical quirks lately.

In reply to by directaction

not dead yet FiendNCheeses Mon, 06/18/2018 - 18:41 Permalink

Yep, ms cherry pick rides again. The oldest Tesla's, not counting the super low production roadster, are around 6 years old. With most production of the S and X coming in the last few years the age of the average Tesla is around 2 years while the average age of cars in the US is near 12 with large numbers 20+. So ms fanbois let's compare the fire numbers of cars 6 years old or less and then those 2 years or less. You lose.

In reply to by FiendNCheeses

FiendNCheeses not dead yet Mon, 06/18/2018 - 19:25 Permalink

I like the part where you completely ignore the fact that there are 10 times more ICE vehicle fires than Tesla fires. Not long ago (and by not long ago, I mean yesterday), you guys were trying to paint Tesla vehicles as more dangerous than gasoline-powered cars. Now that that canard has been shot down, you're moving the goal posts and trying to claim it's because ICE vehicles are so old.

So, do we pull all these old, gasoline-powered firetraps off the road and replace them? And as far as newer cars not catching fire, are you sure about that?

In reply to by not dead yet

Umh FiendNCheeses Mon, 06/18/2018 - 21:02 Permalink

I've seen ICE vehicles catch on fire, usually after a collision and I would much rather have to get out that fire than the Tesla based fires I have seen pictures of online. For one little thing the passenger compartment is not usually sitting on top of the fire source. I have seen more than a few times fires started from collisions that were put out by near by garden hoses, BTW water is not a good way to put out gasoline fires.

In reply to by FiendNCheeses

FiendNCheeses Umh Mon, 06/18/2018 - 22:37 Permalink

Batteries just burn, gas burns and explodes. And if you look at the fire of that Tesla that belongs to Mary McCormick's husband, you can see the flame being directed out and away from the passenger compartment. I'd rather deal with that 2-foot flame than an entire vehicle engulfed in fire. The interior of that Tesla was fine, by the way. And that's because of how Teslas are designed - to direct flames in the battery pack through ducts away from the vehicle's occupants.



In reply to by Umh

Utopia Planitia FiendNCheeses Mon, 06/18/2018 - 19:06 Permalink

Classic example of spewing out statistics with no context or analysis.  Statistics by themselves tell you nothing.  Spewing out a pile of statistics does not provide any meaningful analysis of a situation, nor does it provide a framework for making any decisions.

Do you know that greater than 99% of sunburns happen when an individual is out in the sun?  What does that tell us about the few cases that happen with no sun present?  Does that mean nobody should be exposed to sunlight?  And on and on and on we can go with no analysis nor any meaningful context.

Your self-agrandized choosing of a "statistic" as though that has meaning shows us your mindset, which is not in the interest of knowledge or understanding.  It is simply a reflection of your desire to "be a member of a tribe".  If you want to be a tribal member put on your war dress and war paint and whoop and swirl all you like!  But you are not giving us any meaningful nor useful information about anything.

In reply to by FiendNCheeses

sessinpo ChaoKrungThep Tue, 06/19/2018 - 05:01 Permalink

ChaoKrungThep FiendNCheeses Tue, 06/19/2018 - 00:51Permalink

Thanks for source. That makes it all the more suspicious that the anti-Tesla cabal (oil, car cos, shorters, shills & hacks) protests too much, methinks


I give Elon a hard time for the same reason I dislike other industries such as oil, gas, solar, banks, car cos, etc, that are subsidized by tax payer money.

Make your product and compete but don't do it through theft of tax payer money. If your conpany wouldn't exist without special treatment, it shouldn't exist.

In reply to by ChaoKrungThep

3-fingered_chemist FiendNCheeses Mon, 06/18/2018 - 18:17 Permalink

Is the data normalized for average age of vehicle? Average age of a gasoline car is something like 12 years, IIRC. Gasoline car fires are a result of poor maintenance (aka older vehicles) not a design flaw or intrinsic safety issue. We are seeing 2-3 year old Teslas catch on fire just for no reason or because of the battery being ruptured in an accident. 

Can you even imagine a 12 year old EV on the road? Think about that. The answer is no which is why these cars are more harmful to the environment than a gasoline car which you can drive for 15-20 years with proper maintenance. So much energy and pollution goes into making the car that getting 5 years out of it before it has to be junked is an environmental calamity. The battery pack won't last more than 5 before it has to be replaced due to degradation of its performance. Most people that can afford a Tesla in the first place are just gonna buy a new one instead of replacing the battery pack too meaning Mother Earth is crying. Even hybrid cars, the batteries don't last much more than 5-10 years, and they are just an auxiliary power source not the main one. At least with a hybrid, you can still drive the car without the battery. 

In reply to by FiendNCheeses

FiendNCheeses 3-fingered_chemist Mon, 06/18/2018 - 18:53 Permalink

"Gasoline car fires are a result of poor maintenance (aka older vehicles) not a design flaw or intrinsic safety issue"

The evidence says otherwise:

"Center for Auto Safety Asks NHTSA to Investigate Kia, Hyundai Fires".

Old cars, new cars, gas, electric - fires happen. They just happen a hell of a lot more with gas cars.

And Tesla batteries are warrantied for 8 years, so that's 8 years minimum of not burning gasoline.

And I think it's safe to say that in another 8 years, battery prices will plummet (probably be graphene-based, as well). You also have to consider that there's a whole list of mechanical parts that go into an ICE vehicle that you simply won't find in a Tesla (for instance, a transmission).


In reply to by 3-fingered_chemist

CrabbyR FiendNCheeses Mon, 06/18/2018 - 18:34 Permalink

You're 10 times more likely to have your gasoline powered car catch fire than your Tesla, but don't let facts get in the way of a good rant, right?



Maybe but don`t go through any deep puddles ....seriously

As I understand it , the output of these batteries are at 400 volts (combined) and It makes sense that there is at least 500 amps,

so how do they handle condensation from weather changes, submersion, anything that can cause a very rapid discharge?



In reply to by FiendNCheeses

FiendNCheeses CrabbyR Mon, 06/18/2018 - 19:04 Permalink

Funny you should say that. When I first got my Mustang, I drove through a puddle during a thunderstorm and shorted the electronics. I guess there was still a pool of water somewhere in the engine compartment because for a while, I'd drive and then suddenly the whole car would shut down. Ford fixed it, but damn, a little more sealer could have saved me a lot of aggravation.

Anyway, I don't know how Tesla handles disengaging the battery, but I'm sure they've taken that into consideration. I know the batteries are sealed and have a titanium shield, though.

In reply to by CrabbyR

MANvsMACHINE Looney Mon, 06/18/2018 - 16:57 Permalink

Anything said prior to signing the termination agreement falls outside of the confidentiality agreement.

Therefore, these employees should start singing to their closest friends and relatives right about now and once they sign the NDA, they can close their mouths.

Those that are given the info aren't bound by any confidentiality agreement.

In reply to by Looney

BandGap Mon, 06/18/2018 - 16:49 Permalink

Having signed a few of these I can attest to the fact that safety was never a secrecy issue, nothing to do with IP.

Somebody better get in there and audit Tesla for safety.

FiendNCheeses Mon, 06/18/2018 - 16:55 Permalink

Part 2 of today's daily anti-Tesla 2 minute hate. You bore me, ZeroHedge.

I use to come here for an alternate take on the news, but ever since ZH sold out, I come here solely for the trolling.