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Former Tesla employees remain troubled, confused by firings

Louis Hansen, The Mercury News on

Published in Automotive News

The company also shot back at critics questioning its treatment of workers, who have raised concerns about lax worker safety rules and low pay. Gaby Toledano, Tesla's chief people officer, wrote an op-ed in the Sacramento Bee this month touting the company's employee stock program and innovative environment. The company lists more than 2,500 open positions on its job board.

"Our employees have many paths towards promotion and long-term careers," Toledano wrote in response to a critic. "We also believe it is important for everyone to be an owner of the company so, unlike other automakers, everyone is awarded company stock upon hiring."

Tesla says workers remain attracted to the automotive and clean-tech company. A company spokesman said Tesla received more than 73,000 applications worldwide in October, a 16 percent increase from January.

Any suggestion that the firings would hurt Tesla hiring in the long term, the company said, "is purely speculation." The company's stock price hit record highs this year, but has fallen in recent weeks.

Analysts have kept a close watch on employee turnover in key positions. High-profile executives in autonomous driving, batteries, finance and business development have left the company this year.

More than a dozen current and former employees interviewed said their dismissals came with little or no warning and were unrelated to performance. Some said they were fired weeks before stock options vested. Many added that morale suffered at the Tesla plant as workers were unsure of their job status.

 

The company has also angered outgoing employees by requiring them to sign a broad non-disparagement clause as part of their separation package.

The separation agreements prohibit former employees from bad-mouthing the company, its executives, investors, affiliated companies, contractors and products. Fired employees are prohibited from specifically criticizing Musk, in return for two weeks severance pay.

Irving Arguello, a former Tesla mechanic from San Francisco, refused to sign the agreement. "I got spit out," said Arguello, an expert in automotive electronics. "It's a lot to ask."

Arguello spent months in Norway, Canada and in U.S. cities fixing Tesla cars and training mechanics. He enjoyed learning the cutting-edge technology, but said he became disillusioned with company managers ignoring workers' needs, and Tesla's demand for secrecy.

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