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Slovenian awarded $550,000 in settlement with Tesla

Los Angeles, 21 July - A Slovenian worker who was gravely injured while helping build a Tesla paint shop in California has reached a US$550,000 settlement with the US electric vehicles maker and several contractors, according to a report by the local East Bay Times newspaper.

Ljubljana
The first Tesla supercharger station in Slovenia opens in Ljubljana.
Photo: Tamino Petelinšek/STA

Gregor Lešnik from the north-eastern town of Velenje was awarded $400,000 to end a civil suit in which he also alleged violation of labour legislation over insufficient pay and $150,000 for workers' compensation claim.

The 42-year-old was left with broken legs, ribs and a concussion in a the three-story fall from the roof of the paint shop in Fremont in May 2015, while working on the piping of a heating and cooling system. His lawyer alleged treatment had cost him $900,000.

Lešnik arrived in the US in March 2015 in a group of some 140 workers from Slovenia and Croatia, who worked on the expansion of the Tesla Fremont plant through Slovenian subcontractor ISM Vuzem, which was hired by Eisenmann, the German contractor awarded the project to build the paint shop.

Lešnik arrived in the US on a visa for a specially trained foreman, although the unemployed Slovenian electrician in fact worked there as a manual labourer. His visa had been arranged for by the subcontractor for work at a BMW plant in South Carolina, but just before departure he learnt he was being sent to California.

According to the East Bay Times report, a final order resolving the case was filed on Monday in Alameda County Superior Court. The order leaves open the possibility of new claims by other workers. The original suit estimated the Eastern European workers were owed $2.6m in overtime and additional pay.

The settlement was reached ten days after the East Bay Times run an investigative report on labour force working on the expansion of the Tesla Fremont plant which revealed that Lešnik worked six to seven days a week ten hours a day.

Through his lawyer Lešnik also alleged that he was paid $5 an hour despite being promised $12.7. Tesla CEO Elon Musk later said the company paid Eisenmann $55 an hour for each of the workers, while Eisenmann said it agreed to pay Vuzem the same hourly rate for the construction work.

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© STA, 2016