SAN FRANCISCO -- Language in a confidential severance agreement Tesla Inc. is using as part of the biggest job cut in its history is likely to deter dismissed employees from going public with worker safety concerns, according to employment-law experts.
A proposed severance agreement Tesla presented to one of the more than 3,000 workers dismissed last week required acknowledgment that the employee “had the opportunity to raise any safety concerns, safety complaints, or whistleblower activities against the company, and that if any safety concerns, safety complaints, or whistleblower activities were raised during your employment, they were addressed to your satisfaction.”
The document obtained and reviewed by Bloomberg News also barred the former worker from sharing “business-related” information; required that the ex-employee assist Tesla’s defense against claims; released any claims made against Tesla; and dictated that any disputes under the agreement will be handled in individual arbitration.
“I do think the agreement will chill valid employee complaints,” said Brishen Rogers, a law professor at Temple University. “A reasonable worker would just keep their mouth shut, rather than risk losing their severance pay.”
Tesla uses the language about safety matters to ensure that issues get addressed, according to a spokesman, who added that employees who don’t believe those words apply to their case should come forward and share their concerns. Tesla declined to say how many of the employees it dismissed last week were presented with severance agreements using the language or how many accepted it.