Former Tesla Employee Sues Over Alleged Retaliation

June 12, 2018, 9:09 PM UTC

Tesla disclosed plans on Tuesday to lay off 9% of its workforce. But there may be more bumps in the road ahead for the electric car manufacturer and its embattled CEO, Elon Musk.

A former employee, Carlos Ramirez, is suing Tesla, claiming he was fired in retaliation for raising concerns about unsafe working conditions and underreported workplace injuries, such as fires, potential explosion hazards, and toxic fume inhalation. Until June 2017, Ramirez was Tesla’s director of environmental, health, safety, and sustainability.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of an exposé in April by Reveal, a nonprofit news organization from the Center for Investigative Reporting, which reported that Tesla routinely left workplace injuries off the books, such as repetitive stress injuries and chemical exposures. In response to Reveal’s reporting, Musk fired back at journalists, suggesting he would start a journalism ranking website called Pravda.

California workplace safety regulators also followed Reveal’s reporting, though a weakness in state law may mean Tesla escapes any penalty.

Tesla responded to Ramirez’s suit in a statement, noting an “onslaught of complaints” about his behavior, including “harassing workplace behavior and extremely inappropriate language.” The company didn’t address whether Ramirez’s firing was in retaliation for speaking up about workplace safety.

Tesla is also in court this week on another matter. The National Labor Relations Board is representing a Tesla employee who alleges he was asked to leave the factory where he worked after handing out pro-union flyers. The NLRB contends Tesla may be in violation of federal safeguards for employee activity.

In terms of the layoffs, Tesla says they will not impact car production such as for the Model 3, the company’s new sedan. It remains unclear which departments will be most affected by the job cuts.