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New ‘People Officer’ Arrives at Tumultuous Time for Tesla

tesla factory fremont

For some reason, the term “Chief People Officer” is at the same time cringe-inducing and rational. That’s what Tesla calls its head of HR. “Human Resources,” of course, is another cringe-inducing term that could only have come from the mid-century expansion of the federal public service. It’s an awful thing.

At Tesla, the face of HR — or people, if you will — has suddenly changed, and at a very interesting point in the electric automaker’s history. The company has announced the departure of longtime HR head Arnnon Geshuri, who oversaw workers at the company for eight years. In his place is Gaby Toledano, a veteran of high tech.

The timing of the departure could simply be a benign career change, but what’s occurring in the background at Tesla have many thinking otherwise.

Tesla announced the new addition to its California team on Tuesday, less than a week after a scathing report on workplace conditions at the automaker’s Fremont factory. That report, published in The Guardian, relied heavily on historical recollections from years past and data showing the company’s above-average accident rate between 2013 and 2016. Tesla issued a response to the claims even before the story came out. In it, the company detailed recent safety and health initiatives (like a move away from 12-hour shifts) while claiming its earlier drive was for the good of the company and its workers’ jobs.

The company claimed that in the first quarter of this year the recordable incident rate fell to a level 32 percent below the industry average. Stories fed to the media were the product of an aggressive unionization push by the United Auto Workers, Tesla said.

It isn’t known whether the departing People Officer left on his own accord. Tesla stated in a blog post, “Arnnon will be taking a short break before moving on to a new endeavor,” before wishing him well.

As for Toledano, her most recent position was at video game producer Electronic Arts, where she spent 10 years as an executive. Before that, she held positions at Microsoft and Oracle, and currently sits on four technology boards.

[Image: Tesla]

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