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Labor regulators order Tesla to respond to worker complaints

Labor regulators order Tesla to respond to worker complaints
Posters of the Tesla Model X at a Tesla showroom in Corte Madera, Calif., on Aug. 29. The National Labor Relations Board has ordered the automaker to respond to worker complaints. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

The National Labor Relations Board has ordered electric automobile maker Tesla Inc. to respond to complaints filed by workers alleging unfair labor practices and efforts to hinder unionization.

The NLRB order, filed Thursday, consolidates several cases brought by Tesla workers Michael Sanchez, Jonathan Galescu and Richard Ortiz, as well as the Service Employees International Union Local 2015. The three employees had previously described their alleged working conditions to the Guardian.

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According to the NLRB order, Palo Alto-based Tesla has maintained a restrictive confidentiality agreement with employees.

Employees cannot discuss confidential information with anyone outside Tesla, cannot take or post photos, record video or audio at work or forward work emails either outside the company or to a personal email account, according to the order.

"Careless violation" of the confidentiality agreement could result in loss of employment, while those engaging in "intentional violation" will be liable for "all the harm and damage that is caused to the company, with possible criminal prosecution," the agreement states, according to the order.

The NLRB order describes instances when Tesla security guards allegedly instructed off-duty employees to leave company premises while the workers were distributing leaflets about a union. A supervisor also allegedly told employees during a pre-shift meeting that they could not pass out stickers, leaflets or pamphlets that were not approved by Tesla and said the company would terminate employees who did so.

Tesla employees are not unionized, but the United Auto Workers has tried to organize the company's workers for years.

A Tesla representative said in a statement that the allegations, "which have been filed by the same contingent of union organizers who have been so outspoken with media, are entirely without merit."

"For seven years, the UAW has used every tool in its playbook: misleading and outright false communications, unsolicited and unwelcomed visits to the homes of our employees, attempts to discredit Tesla publicly in the media, and now another tactic that has been used in every union campaign since the beginning of time — baseless ULP [unfair labor practice] filings that are meant only to generate headlines," the representative said.

The NLRB must receive an answer from Tesla about the complaint by Sept. 14. Tesla has said it will respond as part of the NLRB process.

A hearing before an NLRB administrative law judge regarding the allegations will be held Nov. 14 in Oakland.

Twitter: @smasunaga

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