Tesla's Employee Lawsuit Saga Grows Weirder by the Minute

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
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tesla s employee lawsuit saga grows weirder by the minute

Tesla CEO Elon Musk appears to be on the hunt for potential saboteurs and thieves. However, as the company doubles down on Model 3 assembly both inside its Fremont, California plant and the tent erected outside, a murky sideshow has emerged.

On Sunday night, Musk emailed employees to alert them to the actions of a saboteur caught hacking the automaker’s manufacturing operating system (MOS), cautioning them to be on the lookout for other nefarious deeds. The automaker then filed a lawsuit against process technician Martin Tripp, who Tesla alleges stole several gigabytes worth of data from the MOS and funnelled the info, which included photos, to shadowy third parties. Incorrect statements were also made to the media by the disgruntled employee, Tesla claims, and it’s now seeking its pound of flesh (as well as its data, plus punitive damages) via the suit.

Tripp’s now telling his side of the story. Oh, and there’s a workplace shooting threat to toss into the mix, too.

Speaking to the Washington Post, Tripp, who was fired last week, said he’s not a saboteur or a thief. Rather, the ex-employee says he’s a whistleblower who felt compelled to speak anonymously to the media after seeing “some really scary things.”

These scary things supposedly include battery packs with punctured cells being placed in “hundreds” of automobiles during the company’s rush to reach a promised production rate of 5,000 Model 3s per week by the end of June — a claim made to the media earlier this month. Tesla says this never occurred.

The allegations in Tesla’s lawsuit are incorrect, Tripp said, including the charge that he wrote code in order to draw the data from the automaker’s MOS. “I don’t have the patience for coding,” he told the Washington Post. He also refutes the allegation that he was combative with co-workers and decided to hack the company after becoming displeased with his low-tier position.

“That’s their generic excuse,” he said. “I could literally care less.”

It’s a case of he said/they said, and Tripp will get his day in court. On Thursday morning, however, the story took on an even strange twist.

Police were called to Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory, source of the Model 3’s batteries and Tripp’s former place of employment. A Tesla spokesperson told CNBC that a person claiming to be a friend of Tripp phoned the automaker on Wednesday afternoon, warning them that Tripp was “going to shoot the place up.”

The company called the authorities and beefed up security at the Gigafactory, Tesla claims. After an investigation, the Stoney County sheriff’s office found “no credible threat” against the building or its workers.

Tripp told Ars Technica that he made no such threat.

“Absolutely not!” he said. “The ONLY thing I have said to any ‘friends’ is I sent a link to the CNBC article to five of them and asked if they really thought I was a hacker.”

Tripp provided Ars with a June 20th email exchange that took place after Tesla filed the lawsuit. In it, Tripp wrote to Musk, claiming, “Don’t worry, you have what’s coming to you for the lies you have told to the public and investors.” Musk took this as a direct threat; Tripp said it wasn’t. Just a karma kind of thing.

Musk then wrote that Tripp should feel ashamed of himself for “framing other people,” calling him “a horrible human being.” In response, Tripp denied he framed anyone (the lawsuit claims he installed his hacking software in three other computers to avoid detection), accusing Tesla, again, of unsafe practices and exorbitant waste at its assembly plants.

In his conversation with Ars, Tripp said he raised these concerns both with his manager and his HR rep, only to receive the brush-off.

The saga continues.

[Image: Elon Musk/ Twitter]

Steph Willems
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  • Eliyahu Eliyahu on Jun 21, 2018

    Manufacturing complex products is perhaps not rocket science, but it still requires the coordination of many activities. It is fair to question, like the financial press, whether there is any realistic possibility of meeting the announced production goals. Without any pretense of actually gathering further information, my bet is a resounding NO. Musk may need diversions as much as el Presidente. Maybe a few more cars put into orbit?

  • Master Baiter Master Baiter on Jun 22, 2018

    What kind of moron goes and talks to the media when he's in the middle of a lawsuit? I agree the punctured cell story sounds like BS, mainly because it's very difficult to puncture a steel-can cylindrical LiIon cell. Doing so would most likely not cause a fire however; it would cause electrolyte leakage and moisture ingress which would make the cell fail in a benign way. All cells much pass a much more severe nail penetration test without smoke or fire in order to receive agency certification.

  • Ernesto Perez There's a line in the movie Armageddon where Bruce Willis says " is this the best idea NASA came up with?". Don't quote me. I'm asking is this the best idea NY came up with? What's next? Charging pedestrians to walk in certain parts of the city? Every year the price for everything gets more expensive and most of the services we pay for gets worse. Obviously more money is not the solution. What we need are better ideas, strategies and inventions. You want to charge drivers in the city - then put tolls on the free bridges like the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. There's always a better way or product. It's just the idiots on top think they know best.
  • Carsofchaos The bike lanes aren't even close to carrying "more than the car lanes replaced". You clearly don't drive in Midtown Manhattan on a daily like I do.
  • Carsofchaos The problem with congestion, dear friends, is not the cars per se. I drive into the city daily and the problem is this:Your average street in the area used to be 4 lanes. Now it is a bus lane, a bike lane (now you're down to two lanes), then you have delivery trucks double parking, along with the Uber and Lyft drivers also double parking. So your 4 lane avenue is now a 1.5 lane avenue. Do you now see the problem? Congestion pricing will fix none of these things....what it WILL do is fund persion plans.
  • FreedMike Many F150s I encounter are autonomously driven...and by that I mean they're driving themselves because the dips**ts at the wheel are paying attention to everything else but the road.
  • Tassos A "small car", TIM????????????This is the GLE. Have you even ever SEEN the huge thing at a dealer's??? NOT even the GLC,and Merc has TWO classes even SMALLER than the C (The A and the B, you guessed it? You must be a GENIUS!).THe E is a "MIDSIZED" crossover, NOT A SMALL ONE BY ANY STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION, oh CLUELESS one.I AM SICK AND TIRED OF THE NONSENSE you post here every god damned day.And I BET you will never even CORRECT your NONSENSE, much less APOLOGIZE for your cluelessness and unprofessionalism.