Tesla Now Considered Essential In New Calif. COVID-19 Restrictions After Previous Suits

California Governor Gavin Newsom issued limited stay at home orders to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the state, which went into effect on Saturday, and prohibits non-essential work and personal gatherings from 10pm to 5am. This time, the California Department of Public Health stated that manufacturing is an essential activity. This comes after Tesla sued Alameda County, California, in May, under California’s earlier stay-at-home order, in an effort to reopen its facility. After a few days both parties agreed on a plan to reopen the factory the following week.

In March, Alameda County officials initially told Telsa that it was not exempt from an order that required nonessential business in six counties, including Alameda County, to shut down. The Alameda County Sheriff tweeted at Tesla stating that it was not an essential business and must maintain minimum operations after Tesla continued operations during the first day of the new order.

Meanwhile, Tesla executives argued that it was essential because it was part of “national critical infrastructure,” and therefore, it would be exempt from the order. The email Tesla’s Human Resources sent allegedly stated, “People need access to transportation and energy, and we are essential to providing it. We have also been in close communication with the State of California, Alameda County, and the City of Fremont, regarding the federal government’s guidance. As a result, Tesla and our supplier network will continue operations that directly support factory production, vehicle deliveries, and service. If you work in these areas, you should continue to report to work, and if you don’t you should work from home until further notice.” However, a few days later Tesla announced that it would temporarily ceased operations at its Fremont factory in order to comply with the order.

However, in May, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced that he was reopening the Fremont factory, despite the fact this violated the local shelter-in-place order and Musk threatened to move Tesla’s operations out of the state. In May, Tesla filed a lawsuit against Alameda County questioning the constitutionality of the shelter-in-place orders, specifically alleging that the County’s actions and order violated the Due Process and Equal Protections Clauses, that it was out of line with federal and state constitutions and that it was preempted by state law. Moreover, Tesla contended that the language in the county order meant that Tesla should have been exempt from the order and that when it was open it acted in good faith after the first order. Tesla also argued that Tesla was being singled out from other auto manufacturers. Shortly after the complaint was filed, Tesla and Alameda County came to an agreement to re-open the facility the following week. The suit was terminated on May 20.

Meanwhile, on November 14, Musk tweeted that he had a moderate case of COVID-19 and since the factory reopened, numerous Tesla workers have contracted COVID-19.  

Alameda County described the state order and instituted its own order for the county. The state’s order is in effect until 5am on December 21.