Be careful what you tweet, kids, you never know when and how it’ll come back to bite you. Case in point: Tesla CEO Elon Musk is feeling the bite from a tweet he sent back in May of 2018, as the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) cited it in a decision finding company and CEO guilty of a series of violations of the National Labor Relations Act.
Nothing stopping Tesla team at our car plant from voting union. Could do so tmrw if they wanted. But why pay union dues & give up stock options for nothing? Our safety record is 2X better than when plant was UAW & everybody already gets healthcare.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 21, 2018
According the the decision made by Administrative Law Judge Amita Baman Tracy, the tweet’s implication that Tesla workers who unionized would have to give up their company stock options was impermissible. However, Musk is accused of more than just words, as the judge also found that Tesla wrongfully terminated one worker for union activity and wrongfully issued a warning to another union supporter.
The decision calls for Tesla to reinstate the wrongfully terminated employee and offer them back-pay.
While bad a bad PR move, it’s a decision that Musk is unlikely to sweat much. It is all but guaranteed that Musk and Tesla will appeal the decision. However, even in the unlikely event that the appeal is foregone, the scope of the company’s impending punishment is limited. While the terminated employee will have to be reinstated and offered back-pay, the NLRB has no authority to assess punitive damages or hold executives personally liable for violations. In fact, the only other punishment issued to Tesla was the announcement that the company will have to host a meeting in its its assembly plant in Fremont, California, a meeting that Musk must attend, where either Musk or an agent with the labor board must read a notice to employees informing them that the NLRB concluded the company broke the law.
Additionally, a quick search into Tesla’s standing with the NLRB found that the decision handed out may not be a lone one. The company currently has eight cases open and under investigation before the NLRB, though the company has a propensity for getting cases withdrawn and adjusted, considering Tesla’s case archive takes up three webpages.
This isn’t the first time Musk’s tweets have put Tesla as a whole in hot water, as just last year the company faced twofold trouble from Musk’s musings. First came the speculation that he would be taking the company private at $420 a share, which immediately led to an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and multiple lawsuits claiming securities fraud.
Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 7, 2018
Oh and let’s not forget the time Musk referred to Vern Unsworth, the man who assisted in rescuing 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave, as ‘sus’ (suspect) and a ‘pedo’ for living in Thailand.
— Kevin Beaumont (@GossiTheDog) July 15, 2018
Let this serve as a reminder to all the kids and high-level executives reading pv magazine USA: if you absolutely must tweet vile accusations, potentially illegal business developments or just want to make yourself look better, at least be smart enough to do it from a burner account.