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2 Apr, 2023
1 min time to read

The court upholds National Labor Relations Board's ruling that the CEO made unlawful threats around employee compensation with a 2018 tweet.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk broke US labor law in 2018 when he tweeted that Tesla factory workers would forgo stock options if they chose to unionize, according to a federal appeals court. On Friday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling that found Musk made unlawful threats around employee compensation. Musk's tweet drew the attention of labor activists who complained to the NLRB, and in 2021, the board found Musk had threatened employees.

Tesla has argued that the tweet was Musk’s way of pointing out that workers at other automakers don’t receive stock options, but NLRB chair Wilma Liebman saw it differently. "The employee is going to hear it as, 'If I vote to unionize, stock options will no longer be an option,'" she told Bloomberg in 2018. The court ordered Musk to delete the tweet, but as of the writing of this article, the message is still live.

The Fifth Circuit Court also upheld an order from the NLRB that Tesla reinstates Richard Ortiz, a worker the automaker fired for organizing employees at its Fremont factory in California. The NLRB had found Ortiz's firing was unlawful and ordered that he be reinstated with back pay. The court's decision comes as Tesla faces renewed scrutiny over its treatment of workers, with some employees alleging poor working conditions, long hours, and low pay.