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Tesla says workers' unemployment benefits could be impacted if they choose not to return to work

Tesla says workers' unemployment benefits could be impacted if they choose not to return to work
© UPI Photo

Tesla reportedly informed California-based employees on Wednesday that it is ramping up operations this week at its Fremont factory and that furloughed workers' unemployment benefits could be "impacted" if they choose not to return to work. 

Valerie Workman, Tesla's head of human resources, informed employees in an email that local officials had given the company the green light to begin resuming operations at its main U.S. car plant, according to a copy obtained by CNBC. She added that once employees were asked to return to work that they would no longer be on furlough. 

"So if you choose not to work, it may impact your unemployment benefits as determined by your local government agency – and not by Tesla," she said. "We completely respect your decision and will support you, without any penalties from us. If you have been called back to work, but have not received your last unemployment check, you can continue to work and expect to receive your final check from your state."

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Tesla did not immediately return a request for comment from The Hill.  

Tesla's Fremont factory was shut down on March 23 shortly after California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomWhy Caitlyn Jenner should not be dismissed San Francisco lawmakers vote to make home of city's first legally married same-sex partners a landmark Woman charged with starting fire that burned 63,000 acres in California MORE (D) issued a statewide stay-at-home order due to the coronavirus outbreak. Restrictions around the country caused Tesla to furlough all hourly workers and slash pay for salaried employees. 

CEO Elon MuskElon Reeve MuskOn The Money: Five takeaways on a surprisingly poor jobs report | GOP targets jobless aid after lackluster April gain Musk warns on cryptocurrency surge: 'Invest with caution!' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Upbeat jobs data, relaxed COVID-19 restrictions offer rosier US picture MORE has repeatedly spoken out about the quarantine measures and over the weekend opened the Fremont-based plant in defiance of a local health order from the Alameda County Public Health Department. He also threatened to move the company's operations outside of California over the dispute. 

"Tesla is restarting production today against Alameda County rules," the Tesla CEO wrote in a tweet on Monday. "I will be on the line with everyone else. If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me."

The Alameda County Public Health Department said in a statement late Tuesday night that it was prepared to allow Tesla to reopen its Fremont plant as soon as next week, so long as it followed a coronavirus prevention plan it devised and public health indicators remained stable.

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The county noted that the company could begin to "augment their Minimum Business Operations this week." 

“We will be working with the Fremont Police Department to verify Tesla is adhering to physical distancing and that agreed upon health and safety measures are in place for the safety of their workers as they prepare for full production,” the department said.

Some Tesla workers have reported that they have yet to receive California unemployment benefits due to lengthy processing times, The Guardian noted. California reportedly only processed one out of eight unemployment claims filed in March.