The Tesla employee ‘fit varies depending on your role. If you’re assembling cars, you wear a black shirt; if you’re a supervisor, you wear a red shirt; and if you’re a line inspector, you wear a white shirt. Tesla’s “team wear” policy has been the center of recent labor law controversy: employees at Tesla’s Fremont, CA assembly plant alleged that Tesla was in violation of labor laws for prohibiting them from wearing union t-shirts. Tesla argued that these outfit regulations were necessary to protect vehicles throughout the assembly process.
Tesla started cracking down on employees’ uniforms in 2017. In fact, the uniform policy developed simultaneously to the United Auto Workers’ organizing campaign, causing the union to allege that Tesla was stifling their organizing efforts. Last week, President Biden shared his support of the union's efforts to organize workers at Tesla and Toyota.
Earlier this week, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals held that Tesla’s uniform policy requiring employees to wear company-issued shirts, and allowing them to wear union stickers, is lawful. This overturned the National Labor Relations Board’s 2022 statement that any employer bans on union insignias were unlawful without falling under special circumstances. Accordingly, the court specifically noted that the NLRB could not legally require Tesla to prove special circumstances to justify its uniform policy. Because Tesla employees could “affix any number or size of union stickers to their team wear," Tesla’s uniform policy poses no interference with union organizing efforts.
Looking forward, the 5th Circuit continues to deliberate a separate but related matter: Tesla’s appeal of an NLRB decision which purported that CEO Elon Musk’s 2018 tweet—which stated that that employees would lose stock options if they joined a union—is a violation federal labor law.
More to come on whether Tesla goes 2-0 against the NLRB. Until then, we can rest assured that Tesla employees are allowed to express their union allegiance and spice up their style with pieces of flair.