Tesla’s most prominent black executive steps down

By Josh Adelson and Dana Hull | bloomberg

Tesla Inc.’s head of human resources and one of its highest-ranking black leaders, Valerie Kepers Workman, is departing for a new job, leaving the company without a key defender after several racism controversies in recent years.

Workman is joining career-network firm Handshake as chief legal officer next week, he confirmed in an email. His LinkedIn profile shows that his role as Tesla’s vice president of people is ending this month.

Workman has been a prominent voice within the company on race issues and has also been instrumental in leading Tesla’s response to the COVID-19 threats. The departure is one of the most significant changes at the top in recent months. Tesla struggled with a raft of executive departures in 2018, but the business has largely stabilized as the company’s stock soared.

Tesla shares climbed 50% last year, a 743% increase over 2020. The company, which did not disclose much about its executive moves, did not respond to a request for additional details.

“I am proud of all that I was able to achieve at Tesla with the support of truly excellent colleagues, especially the people and legal teams,” Workman said in an email. Citing his high school experience in track and field, where he “needed to pass the baton to a better place than I had received it,” Workman wrote that he “believes I’ve made such an important implementation at Tesla.” Did this with.” Programs for employees around the world. ,

Workman, a lawyer who started in Tesla’s legal department in 2018, was promoted to vice president of the People’s Office in July 2020 and reported directly to CEO Elon Musk. During his tenure, Tesla fought discrimination lawsuits, navigated the waves of the pandemic, released its first diversity, equity and inclusion report, and asked employees to take the time out of their paid days to celebrate Juneteenth. can use one.

Workman is portrayed in the Company DEI report as an example of someone who rose rapidly through the ranks, moving from associate general counsel for multiple areas to chief of human resources and eventually her most important role. Recent executive role.

“My promotions are one of the things I love most about Tesla; here you don’t get typecast just to do one thing,” Workman said in a December 2020 report.

According to the report, black and African-American employees represent 10% of Tesla’s US workforce, but just 4% of managers at the level of directors and above.

In recent years, Tesla has faced several high-profile lawsuits over its dealings with black employees and subcontracting workers at the company’s auto plant in Fremont, California. In October, a former factory contract worker was awarded $137 million in damages after a jury found that Tesla ignored racial slurs and offensive graffiti. Tesla is fascinating.

In an internal email that Tesla published as a blog post on the night of the verdict, Workman wrote that she “heard the testimony of every witness” and attended every day of the trial, sitting at the defense table for Tesla. “The Teslas of 2015 and 2016 (when Mr. Diaz worked at the Fremont factory) are not the same as the Teslas of today,” Workman wrote in the post.

Workman drew on her experience as a black woman in America, reflecting on the May 2020 murder of George Floyd.

“When I was coming to work during the Shelter In Place, I stuck my work badge to my seatbelt so I wouldn’t have to reach for it in case I was pulled over and explain why I was on the road was,” she wrote. A message to the employees at that time. “The fear for the lives of my husband and sons is a constantly haunting undercurrent that I suppress so that I can go about my day.”

‘Why diversity matters’

Workman’s message describes the steps he has taken, including asking the company’s benefits team to provide an overview of mental health resources and reminding its chief of safety “to ensure that the safety team is able to provide employees with are conscious of their role in helping and understanding the stresses they are dealing with.” “It’s one of the reasons why diversity matters,” she said.

Tesla’s 2020 DEI report also noted that Workman led the teams that developed Tesla’s “employee-centered programs” responding to COVID-19.