Tesla informs employees on Juneteenth that they can take off holiday unpaid

Just before 8 a.m. PT Friday, Tesla’s head of human resources sent an email telling U.S. employees they could take the day off to observe Juneteenth, the June 19 holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.

Moments later, HR head Valerie Capers Workman clarified that employees who chose to take the day off would be unpaid, according to an email viewed by TechCrunch. CNBC was the first to report the morning emails. The email was sent as workers on the west coast were starting their workday. For those in other time zones, including those who are employed at the company’s Buffalo, New York factory, the email arrived well into the work day.

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.

The timing of the emails — sent on the day of the holiday — has prompted criticism. It’s also raised questions about how it might affect a planned Juneteenth demonstration at Tesla’s Fremont, Calif., factory, which employs more than 10,000 workers.

Later this morning, and perhaps in response to push back, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that Juneteenth will be considered a U.S. holiday at Tesla and SpaceX moving forward.

In a later tweet, Musk confirmed that it would require employees to take a paid-time off or PTO. Employees are allotted a certain number of PTO days per year depending on length of employment and position. Several employees, who will remain unnamed because they’re not authorized to talk to the media, have told TechCrunch that they used up their PTO to stay home as a precaution during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day that slaves in Galveston, Texas became aware of their freedom when a Union general reached the region two months after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered in Virginia. This was more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

This year, following nationwide protests about police brutality and systematic racism against Black people, dozens of tech companies have announced plans to recognize Juneteenth and offer it as a paid holiday, including Square and Twitter. Other companies have announced other plans to recognize the day.