Tesla’s California factory in Alameda county, which employs roughly 10,000 people, and is responsible for most of the company’s vehicle manufacturing, has been ordered to shut down under the county’s “shelter-in-place” order, given its classification as a “non-essential business”.
Over 7 million California residents across several counties have been ordered to shelter in place for a three-week period to limit the spread of Coronavirus. However, as of Wednesday 18 March, approximately 25% of the factory’s employees had reportedly returned to work, keeping production running.
This potentially puts CEO Elon Musk at odds with state authorities, as the company may only maintain “minimum basic operations, defined as operations ensuring security, payroll processing, and other essential employee-related functions.
A reported email from Tesla’s North American human resources department sent on Wednesday allegedly advised employees that there are “no changes to your normal assignments” and that employees “should continue to report to work if you are in an essential function,” including “production, service, deliveries,” according to a report by CNN Business.
“We still do not have a final word from the city, county, state and federal government on the status of our operations.”
An email sent by Musk on Monday evening stated “My frank opinion is that the harm from the coronavirus panic far exceeds that of the virus itself,” but also noted, “If you feel the slightest bit ill or even uncomfortable, please do not feel obligated to come to work.”
Stocks in the company reportedly dropped 5% in after-hours trading, following Musk’s message.