People

Leaked email: Tesla to furlough workers and cut pay amid coronavirus shutdowns

The company said it expects to resume normal operations May 4, "barring any significant changes."

Tesla factory

Tesla's vehicle factory in Fremont.

Photo: Lauren Hepler/Protocol

Tesla will reduce salaries and furlough nonessential employees who are unable to work remotely until the automaker can reopen factories shuttered by coronavirus lockdowns, according to an email sent to employees late Tuesday.

The email, provided to Protocol by two workers at the company's Fremont factory, said the company will begin furloughs on Monday and expects to resume normal production at U.S. facilities on May 4, "barring any significant changes." Furloughed workers will retain their health care benefits in the meantime, according to the email from North American HR leader Valerie Capers Workman.

In what the email called "a shared sacrifice across the company," Tesla will also temporarily reduce pay for all salaried employees through the second quarter of the year, the email said. Executives at the vice president level and above will see a pay cut of 30%, directors and above will see a 20% cut, and "everyone else" will be docked 10%. The company will also pause its merit review cycle, pay raises and stock grants.

"Definitely surprised by it," one manufacturing worker told Protocol. "We didn't think they were going to furlough full-time employees," he added, following reports that Tesla had laid off hundreds of contractors in recent days.

In the coming days, the company said, it will inform employees of options to apply for unemployment benefits expected to "roughly equal" normal pay for many workers. "We know the uncertainty has not been easy," Capers Workman wrote, "and we are doing everything we can to keep you safe and informed while also navigating the changes around the world."

Tesla did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but the cuts come amid a push to ramp up production of the new Model Y and expand the company's 10,000-person Silicon Valley manufacturing hub.

Tesla stock rose more than 5% in trading Tuesday amid a broader rally for the auto industry, and after a Bloomberg report that the company planned to sell its Model 3 sedan in China with a longer driving range. Still, the electric automaker's $545 share price was down more than 40% from a high reached in mid-February.

During the coronavirus crisis, Tesla has pushed the limits of operations for businesses in emergency zones. The automaker initially refused to shut down its Fremont factory after a March 17 shelter in place order from local governments.

Multiple factory workers told Protocol at the time that non-supervisors were offered flimsy paper masks, and they worried about the spread of the virus with manufacturing stations only a few feet apart. Though the company told workers they could work from home if they felt unsafe, some said that was not financially possible due to a lack of remaining paid sick days or vacation days.

On March 24, Tesla reduced its operations to essential factory personnel in both Fremont and Buffalo, New York, while corporate employees who were able worked remotely.

According to emails released to Protocol last week, Tesla initially argued to Fremont city officials that it believed it could stay open because it was covered by federal and state guidance on "critical infrastructure," rather than local emergency orders.

While the number of employees still working at the Fremont factory has not been released, the company said it planned to transition to "minimum basic operations" to support vehicle and energy service operations, as well as charging infrastructure.

One employee who does critical work at the plant, who asked to remain anonymous to protect their job, said they have been working 10-hour days from Monday to Saturday. While there have been promises of incentives for the extra hours, they have not materialized, the worker told Protocol.

Tesla has not responded to repeated requests for comment since the shelter in place order was issued. In the meantime, CEO Elon Musk has remained active on Twitter, first questioning the "dumb" virus panic, then promising to help provide ventilators to overwhelmed hospitals.

Levi Sumagaysay contributed reporting.

Climate

The West’s drought could bring about a data center reckoning

When it comes to water use, data centers are the tech industry’s secret water hogs — and they could soon come under increased scrutiny.

Lake Mead, North America's largest artificial reservoir, has dropped to about 1,052 feet above sea level, the lowest it's been since being filled in 1937.

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The West is parched, and getting more so by the day. Lake Mead — the country’s largest reservoir — is nearing “dead pool” levels, meaning it may soon be too low to flow downstream. The entirety of the Four Corners plus California is mired in megadrought.

Amid this desiccation, hundreds of the country’s data centers use vast amounts of water to hum along. Dozens cluster around major metro centers, including those with mandatory or voluntary water restrictions in place to curtail residential and agricultural use.

Keep Reading Show less
Lisa Martine Jenkins

Lisa Martine Jenkins is a senior reporter at Protocol covering climate. Lisa previously wrote for Morning Consult, Chemical Watch and the Associated Press. Lisa is currently based in Brooklyn, and is originally from the Bay Area. Find her on Twitter ( @l_m_j_) or reach out via email (ljenkins@protocol.com).

Every day, millions of us press the “order” button on our favorite coffee store's mobile application: Our chosen brew will be on the counter when we arrive. It’s a personalized, seamless experience that we have all come to expect. What we don’t know is what’s happening behind the scenes. The mobile application is sourcing data from a database that stores information about each customer and what their favorite coffee drinks are. It is also leveraging event-streaming data in real time to ensure the ingredients for your personal coffee are in supply at your local store.

Applications like this power our daily lives, and if they can’t access massive amounts of data stored in a database as well as stream data “in motion” instantaneously, you — and millions of customers — won’t have these in-the-moment experiences.

Keep Reading Show less
Jennifer Goforth Gregory
Jennifer Goforth Gregory has worked in the B2B technology industry for over 20 years. As a freelance writer she writes for top technology brands, including IBM, HPE, Adobe, AT&T, Verizon, Epson, Oracle, Intel and Square. She specializes in a wide range of technology, such as AI, IoT, cloud, cybersecurity, and CX. Jennifer also wrote a bestselling book The Freelance Content Marketing Writer to help other writers launch a high earning freelance business.
Workplace

Indeed is hiring 4,000 workers despite industry layoffs

Indeed’s new CPO, Priscilla Koranteng, spoke to Protocol about her first 100 days in the role and the changing nature of HR.

"[Y]ou are serving the people. And everything that's happening around us in the world is … impacting their professional lives."

Image: Protocol

Priscilla Koranteng's plans are ambitious. Koranteng, who was appointed chief people officer of Indeed in June, has already enhanced the company’s abortion travel policies and reinforced its goal to hire 4,000 people in 2022.

She’s joined the HR tech company in a time when many other tech companies are enacting layoffs and cutbacks, but said she sees this precarious time as an opportunity for growth companies to really get ahead. Koranteng, who comes from an HR and diversity VP role at Kellogg, is working on embedding her hybrid set of expertise in her new role at Indeed.

Keep Reading Show less
Amber Burton

Amber Burton (@amberbburton) is a reporter at Protocol. Previously, she covered personal finance and diversity in business at The Wall Street Journal. She earned an M.S. in Strategic Communications from Columbia University and B.A. in English and Journalism from Wake Forest University. She lives in North Carolina.

Climate

New Jersey could become an ocean energy hub

A first-in-the-nation bill would support wave and tidal energy as a way to meet the Garden State's climate goals.

Technological challenges mean wave and tidal power remain generally more expensive than their other renewable counterparts. But government support could help spur more innovation that brings down cost.

Photo: Jeremy Bishop via Unsplash

Move over, solar and wind. There’s a new kid on the renewable energy block: waves and tides.

Harnessing the ocean’s power is still in its early stages, but the industry is poised for a big legislative boost, with the potential for real investment down the line.

Keep Reading Show less
Lisa Martine Jenkins

Lisa Martine Jenkins is a senior reporter at Protocol covering climate. Lisa previously wrote for Morning Consult, Chemical Watch and the Associated Press. Lisa is currently based in Brooklyn, and is originally from the Bay Area. Find her on Twitter ( @l_m_j_) or reach out via email (ljenkins@protocol.com).

Entertainment

Watch 'Stranger Things,' play Neon White and more weekend recs

Don’t know what to do this weekend? We’ve got you covered.

Here are our picks for your long weekend.

Image: Annapurna Interactive; Wizard of the Coast; Netflix

Kick off your long weekend with an extra-long two-part “Stranger Things” finale; a deep dive into the deckbuilding games like Magic: The Gathering; and Neon White, which mashes up several genres, including a dating sim.

Keep Reading Show less
Nick Statt

Nick Statt is Protocol's video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at nstatt@protocol.com.

Latest Stories
Bulletins