San Francisco pushes for ‘right to disconnect’ law; Tesla to layoff 10% of its workforce

In this week's round-up of HR news catching our eye: Tesla to shrink its workforce by 10%; San Francisco launches 'right to disconnect' law; while best employers for career growth are named:

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Apr 18, 2024

San Francisco introduces ‘right to disconnect’ bill

Assemblyman, Matt Haney, has introduced a bill that would grant employees the legal right to ignore non-emergency work communications outside of designated working hours, with only limited exceptions for emergencies and last-minute schedule changes. According to Haney, the bill – officially Assembly Bill 2751 – is being introduced because technology leaves most Americans ‘24/7 available’ – something he says shouldn’t be happening. If enacted, California would become the first state in the nation to enshrine the “right to disconnect” into law, joining a select group of countries that have already taken this step, including France, Italy, and Spain. If the bill does becomes law, any employer that violates it could face a fine of at least $100. If passed, it would apply to salaried employees but would not override existing collective bargaining agreements, meaning unionized workers would continue to follow whatever it says in their contracts. While supporters of the bill are said to be eagerly anticipating its passage, opponents are already voicing their concerns about its potential impact on business operations and flexibility. The bill has to move through several approvals before it reaches the governor, who would have until September to sign it into law. But if it passes, it would go into effect in January. New York City considered a similar proposal in 2018 but didn’t adopt it.

Tesla to lay off 10% of its workforce

In a memo revealed to staff this week, Tesla has announced that 10% of its global workforce will be axed. With around 140,473 employees (as of December 202), the move means around 14,000 posts will go. While the distribution of the layoffs is not yet clear, Reuters is reporting that some workers in Texas and California have already been notified about layoffs. One employee who has been informed that they’re being let go told the BBC that he’s been locked out of his email account along with everyone else who has been laid off. In the memo, CEO Elon Musk said the layoffs were down to over-expansion, which has led to “duplication of roles and job functions in certain areas.” He added: “There is nothing I hate more, but it must be done. This will enable us to be lean, innovative and hungry for the next growth phase cycle.” He went on to thank “everyone who is departing Tesla for their hard work over the years” and said it’s “very difficult to say goodbye.” Analysts argue Tesla expanded fast, anticipating rising demand in electric vehicles, but declining sales, plus price wars for electric cars, mean the business is not a healthy as it could be. Earlier this month Tesla revealed that global vehicle deliveries fell for the first time in almost four years during the three months ending March 31. It also scaled back production at its Gigafactory in Shanghai last month, according to Bloomberg.

Amazon “pressurized” former Trader Joe’s worker to reveal data

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, an Amazon manager repeatedly pressurized a former Trader Joe’s employee it hired to reveal company sensitive data. The employee worked at Trader Joe’s snack foods division, before taking a position at Wickedly Prime – part of Amazon’s entry into the food and beverage market. The Journal reports that Amazon wanted to replicate the top 200 items sold at Trader Joe’s in its Wickedly Prime Offering, but with an absence of publicly available data, the employee’s manager persistently demanded her to share data and intelligence, including emails and documents she had kept from her employment at Trader Joe’s. After months of pressure, the employee reportedly shared emails and documents but refused to share data on the margins for each of the products. The manager allegedly responded to the refusal by yelling: “You have to give us the data!” a witness to the event told the Journal. “We do not condone the misuse of proprietary confidential information, and thoroughly investigate any reports of employees doing so and take action, which may include termination,” an Amazon spokesperson has said in a statement to Business Insider. The accusations come as data shows there were 3,205 similar data breaches in 2023 (an all-time high) – up from 1,802 in 2022.

…as ex-TikTok employee says he was ordered to send data to China

A former TikTok employee claims he was ordered to send American user data to its Beijing-based parent company, ByteDance. The employee – Evan Turner, a senior data scientist for TikTok from April to September in 2022 – was quoted in Fortune this week as being told to email spreadsheets containing millions of American users’ data to ByteDance employees in Beijing. This included the users’ names, email addresses, IP addresses, and demographics. This, he claims, was despite TikTok launching Project Texas in March 2022, which promised US officials that it would stop sharing American user data with its Chinese parent company and keep the data in US-based data centers. The former senior data scientist said that while his supervisor was switched from a ByteDance executive in Beijing to an American manager in Seattle, a human resources representative told him he would, in reality, still report to the Beijing-based ByteDance executive. “There were Americans that were working in upper management that were completely complicit in this,” Turner said. Last month, the House voted 352-65 in favor of banning TikTok unless it is sold to a non-Chinese company. Biden said he would sign the bill should it pass through the Senate.

New bills blocks requirements for heat protection for outdoor workers

Despite the state of Florida recording 215 heat-related deaths between 2010-2020, and with predictions that it will experience more days of extreme heat, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill last week preventing local governments from requiring heat protection for outdoor workers. The bill – House Bill 433 – prohibits an employer, including subcontractors working for that employer, to meet or provide heat exposure requirements not otherwise required under state or federal law. Rep. Tiffany Esposito of Fort Myers sponsored the House version of the bill, and said: “If you want to talk about health and wellness, and you want to talk about how we can make sure that all Floridians are healthy, you do that by making sure that they have a good job. And in order to provide good jobs, we need to not put businesses out of business.” Florida does not have any statewide standard. However, the bill’s text heavily supports OSHA’s guidelines regarding the subject. Florida is under federal OSHA jurisdiction which covers most private-sector workers within the state. State and local government workers are not covered by federal OSHA. Overall, the legislation would make any local heat protection measures “void and prohibited,” within all 67 Florida counties. In Miami-Dade County, this legislation would kill the county’s proposal to require 10-minute breaks in the shade for every two hours for any construction and farm workers outside. After negotiating for years, county commissioners had the item on their agenda up until the law was signed.

Car dealership pays $325,000 to settle health cost dodging case

Car dealership, Gregg Orr Auto Collection, has paid out $325,000 to settle an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) lawsuit that claimed it fired an employee to avoid medical costs associated with his cancer diagnosis. According to the EEOC, the 65-year old senior sales executive was fired without warning shortly after he received billing for treating a serious cancer. The suit alleged that Greg Orr Auto knew the company would be exposed to the employee’s ongoing healthcare expenses under its self-insured employee health care plan and therefore replaced him with a significantly younger worker in his mid-30s. According to the EEOC, Gregg Orr violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which prohibits employers from discriminating based on disability or age (age 40 or older). Said Marsha Rucker, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Birmingham District: “This resolution underscores the EEOC’s commitment to eliminating age and disability discrimination.” Gregg Orr must now also provide all upper management with training on disability and discrimination.

LinkedIn publishes its Top 50 large companies for career growth

Now in its eight year, LinkedIn’s latest 50 Best Large Companies for Career Growth ranking has been published. Top of the pile, comes JPMorgan Chase & Co, which was recognised for initiatives like its Emerging Talent Program, which offers opportunities for candidates without a university degree, and Year Up, a tuition-free development program that converts over 65% of participants into full-time roles. This top-rated firm just edged out Amazon, while third on the list was Wells Fargo, followed by Deloitte, PwC, United Health Group, AT&T, and Verizon. Completing the top ten were Moderna, and Alphabet. It’s for the 7th year in a row that Amazon features in the list, which was lauded for its access to education and skills programs – including its Upskilling 2025 Pledge, which creates pathways to careers in areas that will continue growing in years to come. Amazon also has a pledge to hire at least 5,000 refugees in the US by the end of this year. In addition, Amazon offers free AI skills training to anyone with a desire to learn about generative AI. The program, aimed at amplifying the accessibility of AI education, includes a $12 million commitment in generative AI scholarships.