Last month The Mercury News published an article called The Hidden Workforce Expanding Tesla's Factory. It describes how several workers hired by Tesla to build a new paint shop for them were foreign workers, who lacked the required skill for the job, and were massively underpaid. This article was released after one worker filed a lawsuit following a three story fall which broke both his legs, and left him with a concussion when he tried to walk on an unsecured roof tile.
Tesla released a response the next day stating that they didn't know this was happening and clarifying that the individual filing the lawsuit was hired by a subcontractor (ISM Vuzem) to Eisenmann, the contractor Tesla hired to build their paint shop. Tesla confirmed that Cal/OSHA found that Tesla was not responsible for the incident. Tesla said although they are legally not responsible (a judge has already concluded that they had no legal responsibility), they feel a moral obligation to help this man who was injured at a future Tesla facility. They finished with this statement:
"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."
To me, this is another example of how Tesla is a great company, and a moral company. While this story is very sad, and highlights the difficulties in a global workforce, Tesla took this opportunity to do the right thing. Something that is rare in our western corporate world.
Cynics might believe that this is just Tesla trying to save the brand's reputation and not about the people involved or that Tesla must have known what was happening. On those second point I would like to draw a comparison to something closer to home. Lets say you hire a company to build you a fence in your backyard. They have a good reputation and have built fences for your neighbours. The person you made the deal with shows up and says they have everything under control. They are with four guys who are speaking Spanish to each other.
Would you walk up to one of the guys and ask him how much he's being paid? Would you ask him if he had the skill to do this work? I know I wouldn't. In fact through my work, I've hired many people and not once have I asked the worker how much they were being paid or if they really knew what they were doing. As for saving face, it would have been very for Tesla to walk away from this one and say it was a subcontractor so we knew nothing, it's up to ISM Vuzem to deal with their worker.
Here's to hoping that Tesla makes it big with the Model 3, we need more companies that do the right thing when faced with a problem.