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Ex-Tesla worker says he lost job despite sacrifices, including sleeping in car to shorten commute

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Tesla is known as a demanding workplace, with its Glassdoor reviews noting that employees typically work long hours and put in time on the weekends. But a recent LinkedIn post from a Tesla worker who lost his job earlier this month is sparking a debate about whether workers should make such sacrifices for their employers.

In the post, former Tesla worker Nico Murillo writes about his dedication to the electric vehicle maker, noting that he slept in his car on weekdays at one point in 2023 to cut out his 1.5 hour commute to the Fremont, California factory. "Showered at the factory and slept in the parking lot. Microwaved dinner in the break room," he wrote. 

Then, Murillo wrote, he logged into his computer on April 15 at 4:30 a.m. to find his account had been deactivated. He soon noticed an email that read, "Unfortunately as a result, your position has been eliminated by this restructuring." Murillo nevertheless drove to his office and tried to badge in. 

"[T]he security guard took my badge and told me I was laid off," Murillo wrote. "Sat in my car in disbelief."

Describing his roughly five years at Tesla, where his most recent role was as a production supervisor, he added, "Sacrificed a lot for the company."

Tesla, which had more than 140,000 workers as of December, is in the process of cutting 10% of its employees as it copes with a slump in demand for its electric vehicles. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in a memo to staff that the layoffs are needed to "enable us to be lean, innovative and hungry for the next growth phase cycle." 

Tesla didn't respond to a request for comment about the post. 

Yet Murillo's description of his dedication to Tesla and his abrupt firing has sparked an outpouring on LinkedIn, with more than 1,600 replies. One common refrain came from people who described having gone through similar experiences, leading them to question whether it's worth giving so much time and energy to an employer. 

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"After 17 years with a company and 1 year away from retirement, headquarters in Utah phoned me to tell me my position was being eliminated and I was to vacate the building immediately," one LinkedIn member responded to Murillo. "I also gave everything to my job but made too much. Corporations do not care about the people."

Another commenter added, "[D]o not sacrifice your health, time and well-being for any organization because as you see they will let you go without any remorse."

"Let me sleep in my car"

Murillo, who spoke to CBS MoneyWatch by phone, said he doesn't regret his time at Tesla. He noted that he started working at the company in an entry-level job for $19 an hour, and ended in a higher-level salaried role where he earned about $120,000 a year. 

"Tesla was a great opportunity, and I have nothing bad to say about Tesla at all," he said. "It gave me an opportunity to develop my skills, my leadership, and I have a bigger mindset after it."

Murillo also noted that his approach when he started at Tesla was to work hard and try to get noticed by higher-ups, which he said paid off with promotions. He recalled that he decided to sleep in his car after working 12- or 13-hour days because he realized his long commute left him with only a few hours at home.

"I was like, 'Let me sleep in my car so it's easier — I wake up and go to work'," he said.

Now, Murillo said his next career step also involves his car, a Tesla Model Y. He plans to live in his car for five years, which he said is doable given California's weather, to cut his housing costs. That will allow him to sock away at least 60% of his income into stock market investments, he said. His ultimate plan is to retire around age 35, as part of the so-called financial independence, retire early, or FIRE, movement. 

"I have a goal, I have a plan, and it's going to be a fun journey," Murillo said. "Work hard now so you don't have to work hard later."

Meanwhile, Tesla is laying off even more employees, according to Monday reports in Electrek and The Information. Musk wrote in a Monday memo that the company is cutting two senior executives, supercharger senior director Rebecca Tinucci and head of new products Daniel Ho, according to The Information. 

Tesla is also laying off almost all of its 500-person charging team, Electrek reported.

Earlier this month, Tesla reported its first-quarter profit plummeted 55%, the victim of falling global sales and the carmaker's own price cuts. Revenue slipped 9% to $21.3 billion. 

Consumer demand for EVs has slowed amid concerns over their cost and usage issues, such as batteries that lose effectiveness in cold weather. And rival automakers are rolling out their own EVs, causing Tesla's market share to shrink.

To be sure, companies often need to cut costs or restructure when they hit rough patches. But the experience for the workers who lose their jobs can be painful, especially for those who put in long hours and sacrificed their personal lives, as expressed by Murillo. 

Still, he added that he views his five years at Tesla as just part of his story. "I'm only 29 years old and have a lot more career time in me," he wrote.

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