Elon Musk is Requiring Workers to Spend 40 Hours a Week in the Office
Workspan Daily
June 03, 2022

This week, the New York Times reported that Elon Musk is demanding his workers return to the office or be fired. According to the Times, Musk sent emails to employees at both SpaceX, the rocket company he runs, and Tesla, the electric carmaker he leads.

In his email to SpaceX employees, Musk told workers that they were required to “spend a minimum of 40 hours in the office per week.” Those who did not do so would be fired, he wrote in the memo, which was obtained by the Times.

In his memo to Tesla’s executive staff, Musk wrote that “anyone who wishes to do remote work” must be in the office for a minimum of 40 hours a week. Those who decline should “depart Tesla,” he added.

The Times reported Tesla had more than 99,000 employees at the end of last year, while SpaceX employs about 12,000 people.

Nick Bloom, an economics professor at Stanford University, told the Times that he expected SpaceX and Tesla to lose about 10 percent to 20 percent of their current work forces and for recruiters to try to poach employees by offering jobs with more flexible work options.

Many Tesla and SpaceX employees who work in cutting-edge tech may believe in Musk, but there are also people “who are in more common activities like I.T., finance, H.R. and payroll,” Bloom said. “They may say: ‘I’m not designing cars. I’m doing the payroll of employees, and I can do that somewhere else.’”

U.S. Economy Adds 390,000 Jobs in May

The U.S. labor market added 390,000 jobs in May and the unemployment rate held stead at 3.6%, according to the Labor Department’s jobs report on Friday.

Average hourly earnings grew 0.3% vs the expected 0.4%, but they remain up 5.2% year-over-year. The May data reflected a slower pace in hiring than in April, which saw payrolls rise by a revised 436,000. Over the last three months job gains have averaged 408,000.

May’s jobs report also came as investors look for signs of continued economic momentum amid mounting worries over rising costs and the specter of recession.

“Another month of solid job growth in May is further evidence that the U.S. economy was not in a recession in the spring,” Comerica Chief Economist Bill Adams told Yahoo Finance. "Americans continue to return to the labor force as the rising cost of living pressures household finances.”

At the industry level, employment in the retail sector notably softened in May, falling by 61,000 with job losses primarily across general merchandise stores, clothing, and clothing accessories stores. The declines coincide with some recent earnings reports from some big-name retailers that suggested hiring may cool as companies grapple with rising costs due to inflation, reported Yahoo Finance. Overall employment in the retail industry, however, remains 159,000 jobs above its February 2020 level.

With the labor market at a near-full recovery and inflation remaining a concern, attention turns to the Federal Reserve’s efforts to normalize surging price levels. An unusually tight labor market has been the focal point of policymakers, with the imbalance between job openings and available workers placing upward pressure on wages and adding to inflationary pressures. On a month-over-month basis, average hourly earnings rose by 0.3%, on par with gains seen in April.

Still, wage growth is trailing inflation by a substantial margin, and serves as a “fresh reminder of how inflation is sapping household buying power,” Bankrate Chief Financial Analyst Greg McBride told Yahoo Finance.

Apple Raises Starting Hourly Pay to $22 an Hour

Apple Inc. is boosting pay for workers amid rising inflation, a tight labor market and unionization pushes among hourly store employees, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

The company told employees in an email last week that it is increasing its overall compensation budget. Starting pay for hourly workers in the U.S. will rise to $22 an hour, or higher based upon the market, a 45% increase from 2018. Starting salaries in the U.S. are also expected to increase.

“Supporting and retaining the best team members in the world enables us to deliver the best, most innovative, products and services for our customers,” an Apple spokesman said in a statement. “This year as part of our annual performance review process, we’re increasing our overall compensation budget.”

WSJ reported that in recent months, Apple has been facing unusual labor unrest. That discontent has spanned from front-line store retail workers agitating for unionization to salaried engineers unhappy with the company’s plans to return to the office. Apple recently paused plans to call salaried workers back to the office for at least three days a week as COVID-19 cases rose in California.

Due to Pilot Shortage, U.S Airlines Consider Cutting Training Hours

As reported by Business Insider, regional carrier Republic Airways, which operates on behalf of Delta, American, and United, is trying to reduce its pilot training requirements in order to get more pilots in the air. In April, the airline asked the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to hire pilots out of its training academy when they reach 750 flight hours instead of the 1,500 hours currently required for most pilots.

 In January, Delta announced it would end the requirement for pilots to have a four-year degree, saying there are qualified candidates "who have gained more than the equivalent of a college education through years of life and leadership experience."

“The pilot shortage for the industry is real, and most airlines are simply not going to be able to realize their capacity plans because there simply aren't enough pilots, at least not for the next five-plus years,” United CEO Scott Kirby said in a quarterly earnings call in April, per CNBC.

Business Insider also reported that in addition to reduced training and education requirements, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) could propose a bill that will increase the mandatory pilot retirement age from 65 to 67, reported aviation trade publication Airline Weekly. The move would be an attempted fix to the shortage, allowing pilots to stay on with their company for longer before being forced to retire.

DOL Updates FMLA Guidance on Mental Health Treatment

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour division recently published new guidance designed to provide additional resources regarding workers’ rights to take leave for serious mental health conditions, and to help employers to better understand how to comply with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

“An eligible employee may take FMLA leave for their own serious health condition or to care for a spouse, child or parent because of their serious health condition,” the DOL noted in a statement, adding that “a serious health condition can include a mental health condition.”

Mental and physical health conditions are considered serious health conditions under the FMLA if they require inpatient care or continuing treatment by a healthcare provider, such as an overnight stay in a treatment center for addiction or continuing treatment by a clinical psychologist.

The newly published guidance includes Fact Sheet #280: Mental Health Conditions and the FMLA and Frequently Asked Questions on the FMLA’s mental health provisions.

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