Tesla settles suit with injured foreign factory worker for $550,000

Tesla has settled a lawsuit filed by subcontractor Gregor Lesnik after claims that he fell three-stories and was injured while working on the company’s state of the art paint shop at the factory in Fremont, California.

According to a report by the Mercury News, Lesnik was awarded $550,000 for back wages and injuries after suffering broken legs, ribs and a concussion as a result of the fall.

The story has gained attention after the San Jose Mercury published a report of its investigation on Tesla after claims made by foreign factory workers of alleged unfair treatment. Lesnik was part of a group of foreign workers managed by Slovenian company ISM Vuzem who claimed they were shuttled from and to the Tesla factory to work six to seven days a week at wages as low as $5 per hour.

Among the claims in the original lawsuit were :

  • Eisenmann USA wrote letters to the U.S. Embassy on behalf of Lesnik and as many as 200 foreign workers stating they would supervise employees at a U.S. auto plant. Most of the Vuzem workers were nonsupervisory laborers and tradesmen.
  • Tesla issued company security badges to the foreign workers, recorded their time on site and shared responsibility for setting safety conditions.
  • Vuzem required foreign employees to regularly work between 60 and 70 hours a week. Vuzem paid Lesnik an average of 800 euros per month, or about $900, for a rate of less than $5 per hour. Lesnik was promised an equal amount when he returned home, but the company never paid the balance.
  • The companies violated wage and employment laws and benefitted from the cheap labor of foreign workers. Workers were promised $12.70 an hour based on a standard workweek. The suit estimates they are due $2.6 million in overtime and premium pay.

Tesla would later respond with a story defending the company’s stance that it operated within legal limits and that Lesnik’s claim was one of a moral issue at heart.

According to Tesla’s issued response, Lesnik’s accident as a result of slipping on loose tile and falling three stories while working on the company’s high-volume paint shop, was investigated by the government regulator that oversees workplace accidents (Cal/OSHA) and found to be not at fault of the company. Tesla’s statement says, “When Mr. Lesnik brought a workers compensation case, Tesla was dismissed from the case because the judge concluded that we had no legal responsibility for what occurred.”

The $550,000 settlement is the total sum from the original suit calling for $400,000 to end Lesnik’s pending civil suit and $150,000 for his workers’ compensation claim. Mercury News reports that the case was settled 10 days after the initial investigations in May of this year, though final details of the settlement weren’t filed until Monday.

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