A former employee is suing Tesla Inc. for failing to provide proper notice of termination. Tesla is in the process of firing at least 700 workers, including administrative, sales, and manufacturing positions, after annual performance reviews, and now one of their employees is fighting back.
The WARN Act in California requires an employer to provide 60 days’ notice to employees if it plans on laying off more than 50 workers, which would allow employees to search for another job or prepare for relocation. Former employee Abraham Duarte has failed suit claiming that Tesla failed to provide the mandatory warning before layoffs began in the first half of October. Tesla claims that the employees were fired for performance issues and not laid off, which means they had no legal obligation to notify workers under the WARN Act. Duarte’s lawyer maintains that his client was an excellent employee and that the company had no on-the-job reason to fire him.
Duarte is not the only employee who states that they were terminated without good reason. According to CNBC, multiple workers allege that performance reviews were written by management to justify layoffs intended to cut costs at the struggling manufacturing facility. The company dismissed workers without specifying any job concerns and some laid-off employees had previous reviews with high scores. Others were fired over email and told them not to come into the office the next day. The UAW has launched a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that the carmaker fired pro-union workers with solid performance scores. At this point, It feels like Duarte is just the first to file suit in California.
Let’s be honest, we can take neither side at face value. It’s probable that Tesla fired some employees for genuine performance concerns as new problems came to light during the production crunch at their manufacturing plant in Fremont. It’s just as likely that the company saw an opportunity to cut costs and leaned on management to fire other workers. Tesla is under a lot of pressure to meet market demand for the Model 3and demonstrate their technical capability; giving two months’ notice to workers they no longer feel are necessary might not have felt possible under such a tight schedule.
For now that remains simple speculation—at least until pre-trial discovery reveals any relevant documents. Either way, Tesla can ill afford bad publicity or lengthy lawsuits during this period of uncertainty.