Following the publication of an article alleging underpaid foreign workers used by a contractor at Tesla Motors' Fremont, California factory, the automaker says it will, "ensure that the right thing happens and all are treated fairly." The company posted a long response on its website, which is also available below.

Yesterday, The Mercury News published a lengthy article describing how some foreign workers helped build and expand the Fremont facility's new paint shop. In some cases, these workers were not following the rules for their B1 "Visitor for Business" visas. Today, Tesla said that its "standards were not met" in the case of Gregor Lesnik, from Slovenia. Tesla promised to not only take care of Lesnik's situation but to also "put in place additional oversight to ensure that our workplace rules are followed even by sub-subcontractors to prevent such a thing from happening again." Tesla's response is straightforward and ends with this line:

Creating a new car company is extremely difficult and fraught with risk, but we will never be a company that by our action does, or by our inaction allows, the wrong thing to happen just to save money.

Read it all below.

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Show full PR text
Response to Mercury News article, entitled "The Hidden Workforce Expanding Tesla's Factory"
The Tesla Team May 16, 2016


At Tesla, we aspire to operate on the principles of hard work and exceptional performance, but always tempered by fairness, justice and kindness. There are times when mistakes are made, but those are the standards to which we hold ourselves. With respect to the person at the center of this weekend's article in the Mercury News, those standards were not met. We are taking action to address this individual's situation and to put in place additional oversight to ensure that our workplace rules are followed even by sub-subcontractors to prevent such a thing from happening again.

Gregor Lesnik was brought to the Tesla factory by a company called ISM Vuzem, a sub-contractor brought in by Eisenmann, the firm that we hired to construct our new, high-volume paint shop. We contracted with Eisenmann for the simple reason that we do not know how to build paint shops and they are regarded as one of the best, if not the best, in the world. In our dealings with them, we have found them to be an excellent company, run by good people.

The article describes how Mr. Lesnik came to this country, the conditions under which Vuzem employed him and others to do their work, and how Mr. Lesnik ended up being injured while on the job. Assuming the article is correct, we need to do right by Mr. Lesnik and his colleagues from Vuzem. This is not a legal issue, it is a moral issue. As far as the law goes, Tesla did everything correctly. We hired a contractor to do a turnkey project at our factory and, as we always do in these situations, contractually obligated our contractor to comply with all laws in bringing in the resources they felt were needed to do the job.

Regarding the accident that resulted in Mr. Lesnik being injured, Cal/OSHA (the government regulator that investigates workplace accidents like these) came to our factory, investigated the incident and found that Tesla was not responsible. When Mr. Lesnik brought a workers compensation case, Tesla was dismissed from the case because the judge concluded that we had no legal responsibility for what occurred.

All of that is fine legally, but there is a larger point. Morally, we need to give Mr. Lesnik the benefit of the doubt and we need to take care of him. We will make sure this happens. We do not condone people coming to work at a Tesla facility, whether they work for us, one of our contractors or even a sub-subcontractor, under the circumstances described in the article. If Mr. Lesnik or his colleagues were really being paid $5 an hour, that is totally unacceptable. Tesla is one of the highest paying hourly employers in the US automotive industry. We do this out of choice, because we think it is right. Nobody is making us do so.

Tesla will be working with Eisenmann and Vuzem to investigate this thoroughly. If the claims are true, Tesla will take action to ensure that the right thing happens and all are treated fairly.

Creating a new car company is extremely difficult and fraught with risk, but we will never be a company that by our action does, or by our inaction allows, the wrong thing to happen just to save money.

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