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Tesla CEO Elon Musk: We Paid $55/Hour For The Work Done By The Injured Slovenian Worker

Eisenmann, the German firm at the center of the recent scandal concerning an injured contract worker on the Tesla paint-shop expansion, has revealed that its contract with the Slovenian firm ISM Vuzem clearly references an hourly labor rate of $55/hour, not the $5/hour the injured worker claimed he was paid.

Thus, seemingly, the majority of the blame for the underpayment of contract workers is on the Slovenian firm itself.

Though, part of the reason that subcontractors are used to begin with is the lack of culpability in the event of legal troubles — so, clearly, no one is squeaky clean here. (Arguably, one of the main purposes of subcontracting is to get a cheap deal while insulating oneself from potential legal problems.)

Eisenmann is reportedly considering cutting ties with ISM Vuzem over the underpayment issue — following an investigation that the company is currently undertaking with the help of auditing firm KPMG. A recent statement from the company noted: “This agreement gave the subcontractor the opportunity to pay their workers appropriately.”

That said, court records clearly show that the worker at the heart of the lawsuit, Gregor Lesnik, was only paid around $5/hour, and was essentially working illegally on a B1 visa.

Here are some key points from our earlier coverage of the subject:

Last May, a man by the name of Gregor Lesnik was working on the construction of the new paint shop at Tesla’s Fremont facility when he fell from the roof and broke both his legs, a number of his ribs, received a concussion, and tore ligaments in his knees.

Following the accident, Lesnik filed a lawsuit alleging that:

* Eisenmann USA wrote letters to the US Embassy on behalf of Lesnik and as many as 200 foreign workers stating they would supervise employees at a US 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 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.

It seems The Mercury News is continuing its investigation. We’ll keep you posted as further developments arise…

Written By

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.


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