Lawyers seek emergency protection for laid-off Tesla workers

Lawyers representing two former Tesla employees who were terminated in mid-June have filed an emergency motion asking a judge to prohibit the electric vehicle maker from forcing workers to sign releases in exchange for less severance than federal law provides.

The plaintiffs, who allege that the company did not provide the 60 days of advance notice required by federal law during a recent round of layoffs, filed a motion Tuesday asking the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas to “restrict Tesla’s ability to continue seeking releases from employees in exchange for one week of severance.”

John Lynch and Daxton Hartsfield were let go mid-June from Tesla’s Gigafactory 2 in Sparks, Nevada, along with more than 500 other employees, according to the complaint. The lawsuit noted that Tesla’s failure to provide advance written notice has had a “devastating economic impact” on the terminated workers.

“Tesla has been encouraging the employees who are being laid off to sign severance agreements in exchange for a modest severance payment generally consisting of one- or two-weeks’ salary,” the motion said. But that’s “far less severance than the employees would be entitled to under the WARN Act.”

The motion seeks class action status on behalf of “employees who have no reason to know yet of their rights or that this case has been filed on their behalf.”

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in June that the company would lay off 10% of its workforce due to an economic downturn. Musk has since rolled that number back to 3%.

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday afternoon.