Tesla may be the leader in electric vehicles at the moment, but its model of disruption has run afoul of union advocates and, potentially, labor laws. The latest: a document facing a challenge from the National Labor Relations Board in response to alleged leaks, that led one Tesla official to have employees—in his words—“renew their vows” to confidentiality.
The news comes from Bloomberg, via Automotive News, which reports that back in late 2016, Tesla higher ups noticed that many of their announcements shared company wide were being summarily distributed to the press.
In response to those leaks, Tesla’s legal vice president Jonathan Chang, drafted a letter seeking renewed confidentiality from workers. Here’s how Chang put it:
“September 2016, we kind of had this bubbling up of many leaks,” Jonathan Chang, Tesla’s legal vice president, said during an NLRB trial in Oakland, Calif. “You have another leak, and you’re like, ‘Jeez, another one?’”
Chang said that Tesla’s general counsel asked him to draft a confidentiality acknowledgment document “to remind our employees what their obligations are, and have them renew their vows.”
It is that same document which has been challenged by the NLRB as “maintaining a confidentiality policy that infringes on workers’ rights,” among other legal charges.
A labor board judge in Oakland, California is considering those charges, including the company’s alleged retaliation against union supporters, and restrictions on employee pro-union activism, the story notes.
Tesla, of course, claims that all of the allegations are false.
Tesla has claimed it’s constantly transparent with employees, including using frequent company-wide emails about confidential company news. Occasionally, those emails include sensitive information about upcoming new feature roll-outs, which may cause buyers to put off purchasing a new Tesla until said feature is in place, for example. Chang also claims the leaks can cause “significant SEC concerns” in regards to how information is disclosed.
Whether the confidentiality vow renewal is a legal issue or not, it’s certainly an image issue, making Tesla execs, Elon Musk included, look like the proverbial Big Brother, even if they’re—as they claim—trying to protect company secrets.
Renewing your vows should reserved for last ditch efforts to save your marriage, not pledging everlasting fealty to your employer. It’s just plain weird.