Working conditions at Tesla’s California factory have garnered significant attention in recent months, with some employees going public with allegations of sexual harassment and excessive workplace injuries, including in a number of new lawsuits. According to Tesla founder Elon Musk, it’s “obviously not cool” for employees to file suit. Huh.
Back in February, The Guardian broke the story about AJ Vandermeyden, a female Tesla engineer who accused the automaker of sexual harassment and pay discrimination in a lawsuit and, in May, was fired. Tesla has vehemently denied her accusations, saying they’re “illegitimate” and led to her dismissal.
On Wednesday, The Guardian published a subsequent piece—and buried deep into the story is a mention of an email to employees from Musk. While it doesn’t mention Vandermeyden by name, Musk’s remarks appear to amount to a warning for employees not to file suit against the company.
Here’s more from The Guardian:
Musk also appeared to reference Vandermeyden in a company-wide email sent two days after her termination. In the email – with the subject “Doing the right thing”, sent at 2.29am – Musk lamented the scrutiny that his company faces, saying, “The list of companies that want to kill Tesla is so long, I’ve lost track.”
As as a result, he continued, employees must work harder and faster than competitors, adding they can’t be a “jerk” in the process.
Musk did not name Vandermeyden, but went on to offer what seemed to be a thinly veiled attack on her lawsuit: “If you are part of a less represented group, you don’t get a free pass on being a jerk yourself. We have had a few cases at Tesla where someone in a less represented group was actually given a job or promoted over more qualified highly represented candidates and then decided to sue Tesla for millions of dollars because they felt they weren’t promoted enough. That is obviously not cool.”
Of course, Musk doesn’t want his company to be sued for millions of dollars, but laying that out in the form of a warning to employees—at 2:30 in the morning, nonetheless—is strange, and seemingly disregards the fact that any employee has the right to file a complaint if they feel they’ve been illegally mistreated by their employer.
Whether Tesla agrees with the characterization that Musk’s email amounted to a warning isn’t clear; we asked the company for comment, and we’ll update the post if we hear back.
Update, 12:45 p.m.: In a statement, the company dismissed the characterization of Musk’s email as “complete false.”
“This is taken out of context of the original email and it would be misleading to re-report that in your article,” the company said.