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Tesla Directed To Change Dress Policy

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) stated Tesla violated the law when it prohibited its general assembly employees from wearing shirts with union insignia. In 2017, some general assembly Tesla workers at a California factory wore shirts with union logos. They wore these shirts during a union organizing drive for the United Auto Workers. Tesla had a policy requiring general assembly employees to wear black shirts with the Tesla logo or a plain black t-shirt. Tesla did allow employees to wear union stickers on their black t-shirts. Before 2017, Tesla employees could wear any kind of shirt with different colors and logos. The NLRB found Tesla's 2017 policy "presumptively invalid" because it interfered with the employees' ability to display union insignia.

Tesla bore the burden of establishing special circumstances to justify its restrictions because they interfered with the employees' protected rights. Tesla argued the policy allowed the company to prevent damage to its product during manufacturing and allowed managers to easily see whether employees were in their assigned areas. The NLRB found Tesla failed to establish union t-shirts presented any greater risk or damage or that they impaired Tesla's ability to manage its employees. Because it did not find "special circumstances," the NLRB ordered Tesla to rescind its policy. The United Auto Workers celebrated the ruling but expressed frustration at how long it took to protect the workers.

The NLRB also reversed its 2019 decision regarding Walmart. The NLRB had previously upheld Walmart's justification that banning union insignia enhanced the customer experience and helped prevent theft and vandalism. The 2019 decision did not address the potential burden on employees' rights under the National Labor Relations Act. The reversal limits employers' ability to regulate union attire.