Tech

Tesla Replaces Head Of HR Amid Allegations Of Poor Working Conditions, Harassment

Tesla's head of HR is leaving the electric carmaker amid allegations of unsafe working conditions, labor violations, harassment and discrimination at the company's California plant.

Posted on

Arnnon Geshuri, the high-profile VP of human resources at Tesla who oversaw its 2011 hiring spree, is leaving the company, BuzzFeed News learned earlier this month and Tesla confirmed in a blog post Tuesday evening. His departure is the third in a string of HR exec exits from Tesla, which has recently been beset by allegations of unsafe working conditions, discrimination and harassment, and potentially illegal mishandling of a union drive at its California manufacturing plant.

Geshuri follows two other HR executives who have left Tesla this year. The first — Jennifer Kim, director of HR for engineering — left Tesla this spring. The second — Mark Lipscomb, who served as VP of HR under Geshuri — left the company earlier this year for Netflix.

“Arnnon helped transition Tesla from a small car company that many doubted would ever succeed, to an integrated sustainable energy company with more than 30,000 employees around the globe,” reads Tesla’s blog post on the matter. “As Tesla prepares for the next chapter in its growth, Arnnon will be taking a short break before moving on to a new endeavor.”

Geshuri will be replaced by Gaby Toledano, an industry veteran who comes to Tesla from Entertainment Arts (EA).

In recent months, a growing body of evidence suggesting that, for workers, Tesla’s state-of-the-art factory in Fremont, California hasn’t always been the safest or most comfortable place to work. In fact, from 2013 to 2016, Tesla’s incident rate in that facility that was higher than the industry average, the Guardian reported and the company acknowledged earlier this week.

Today, a group called Worksafe published a report that pokes holes in Tesla's argument that the company has successfully lowered its incident rate for the beginning of 2017 to a number that's below the industry average. Worksafe said its independent review of public health and safety data shows Tesla's injury rate has "changed significantly since the company’s recent claims of success in reducing injuries in the first quarter of 2017."

Allegations about working conditions at Tesla first arose on February 9, when factory employee Jose Moran kicked off a union drive with a blog post in which he points to long hours, repetitive stress injuries, and lower than competitive compensation as reasons why Tesla workers should unionize. Tesla recently staved off threats of a strike at its German factory over similar issues by offering workers there a pay raise.

The United Auto Workers — the union trying to organize Tesla’s Fremont, CA plant — filed charges against Tesla with the NLRB last month, alleging illegal coercion, surveillance and intimidation against workers who distributed information about the union effort. Geshuri is listed as the “employer representative” in those charges.

In addition to issues with the union, Tesla has faced broader allegations of discrimination. In March, a video surfaced in which Tesla employees repeatedly used the n-word and threatened violence against an African American colleague, a man named DeWitt Lambert who later sued the company. At the time, Tesla rebutted Lambert’s allegations, saying Lambert had accused his fellow employees, with whom he was friendly outside of work, out of retaliation when he mistakenly believed they had reported him to HR. But Tesla also acknowledged that an error in its investigation process caused the company to lose track of its initial HR investigation into the video.

“We don't feel that we met our standard in terms of how we handled the people involved in that situation,” said Tesla managing counsel Carmen Copher in an interview with NBC. “We also, pointedly, don't believe we met our standard in terms of how the investigation was handled.”

Geshuri’s departure was unrelated to this incident, according to Tesla.

Meanwhile, another Tesla employee, AJ Vandermeyden, is also suing Tesla for discrimination. Vandermeyden, who still works as an engineer for the company, alleges that she is paid less than her male peers, was passed over for deserved promotions because of her gender, and has endured “inappropriate language, whistling, and catcalls” on the factory floor. Vandermeyden’s suit, which was filed in 2016, is currently in private arbitration.

According to his LinkedIn, Geshuri had been with Tesla for over seven years; previously, he was senior director of staffing and human resources at Google, where he was involved in the high-tech antitrust litigation scandal.

Geshuri did not respond to request for comment from BuzzFeed News.

Caroline O'Donovan is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco.

Contact Caroline O'Donovan at caroline.odonovan@buzzfeed.com.

Priya Anand is a tech and transportation reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco.

Contact Priya Anand at priya.anand@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.