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"I will personally be at work, but that's just me," Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk wrote in a March memo sources read over the phone for Reuters. "Totally OK if you want to stay home for any reason. If you feel the slightest bit ill or even uncomfortable, please do not feel obligated to come to work."
Carlos Gabriel and Jessica Naro took up Musk's offer but have both been fired for "failure to return to work" amid California's state lockdown in May, according to a Wednesday report from the Washington Post.
Both employees said they believe the automaker's decision to fire them has to do with a June 15 meeting during which they expressed concerns about work conditions related to the pandemic, the Post reported.
“Some people don’t really care about wearing [personal protective equipment],” Gabriel told the outlet. “PPE is thrown on the ground after being used. People are afraid to go to the bathroom. People are afraid to eat.”
Gabriel has been vocal in his criticism of the company's handling of COVID-19. He told the SF Weekly, a San Francisco newspaper in May that he has "never worked for a company as cultish as Tesla."
"If you speak up you’re either fired, frowned upon, or picked on," he told SF Weekly.
Other employees who opted not to disclose their names shared similar concerns with SF weekly.
“This is a life and death situation,” one factory worker, who was not identified, said. “There’s really no room, and this is a factory with recycled air. You’re basically just breathing on each other.”
Musk has repeatedly voiced his support for the country to reopen and has criticized government orders to keep states under lockdown in efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19. He threatened to sue a California county on May 9 in his push to get the state to allow people to return to work.
Musk said production at his Fremont factory would resume on May 11 with safety guidelines, such as social distancing and PPE, in place for workers.
President Trump also called on California to reopen in support of Musk.
"California should let Tesla & @elonmusk open the plant, NOW," Trump wrote on Twitter in May. "It can be done Fast & Safely!"