Tesla has denied firing employees who chose to stay at home during the coronavirus pandemic, contrary to media reports.
Three of the company’s staff said they had been terminated after choosing to stay at home rather than work at the company’s factory in Fremont, California, according to the Washington Post.
In defiance of state orders issued to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak, Tesla’s factory resumed production back in May.
In an email to staff at the time, Elon Musk, the company’s billionaire chief executive, told staff that if they “feel uncomfortable coming back to work at this time” they should not “feel obligated to do so”.
Tesla said it offered staff “a window of time to stay home no questions asked” and waived its attendance policy “for several weeks after we had approval to reopen our factories”.
But three workers who didn’t go into work due to fears about bringing coronavirus into their homes told the newspaper that Tesla had actually fired them for abandoning their jobs.
They said their managers had seemed understanding about their concerns, which included exposing relatives who have severe respiratory issues.
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Tesla responded in a blog post, stating: “Recent reports that we have terminated employees due to their concerns over health practices are fundamentally untrue.
“The employees quoted in recent stories are still employed with Tesla and we have offered them work multiple times.
“All we have asked is that our employees talk to us and provide us the details of their own concern so we can do what we can to help find a solution.”
The weekend before reopening the factory, Elon Musk threatened to move Tesla’s HQ to Texas or Nevada.
The threat highlighted the competition for jobs and ignited a rush to woo executives at the company by states that reopened their economies more quickly in response to encouragement from Donald Trump.
But the rush to reopen may have sparked a second wave of the outbreak.
Almost half a million new infections have been reported in the country in the last two weeks alone.
States which had begun to allow bars to reopen such as Texas and California are now closing them again, fearing a second wave of the pandemic.
On Tuesday, the country’s top infectious diseases expert warned the US could soon see 100,000 new cases every day.
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a US Senate committee that the daily surge in cases could more than double if Americans don’t start following public health recommendations.
“I am very concerned because it could get very bad,” he said.