A day after Lukasz Krupski put out a hearth at a Tesla automotive supply location in Norway, significantly burning his arms and stopping a catastrophe, he acquired an e mail from Elon Musk.
“Congratulations for saving the day!” Mr. Musk, Tesla’s chief government, wrote in March 2019.
However what began as a narrative a couple of heroic worker and a grateful employer has devolved into an epic battle between the carmaker and Mr. Krupski, a service technician. The combat has spawned lawsuits in Norway and the USA and caught the eye of regulators in a number of nations.
After initially being hailed as a savior, Mr. Krupski mentioned in an interview with The New York Instances, he was harassed, threatened and ultimately fired after complaining about what he thought of grave security issues at his office close to Oslo. Mr. Krupski, initially from Poland, was a part of a crew that helped put together Teslas for consumers however grew to become so pissed off with the corporate that final 12 months he handed over reams of information from the carmaker’s pc system to Handelsblatt, a German enterprise newspaper.
The info contained lists of Tesla staff, together with Mr. Musk, usually with their Social Safety numbers and different private data. There have been hundreds of accident studies and different inside Tesla communications that Handelsblatt used as the basis for stories about flaws with the corporate’s Autopilot driver-assistance software program.
The info additionally offered the premise for stories by Handelsblatt and Wired magazine about how a lot bother Tesla was having manufacturing the Cybertruck pickup, which the corporate has mentioned will likely be delivered to clients on the finish of this month, nearly three years delayed. (Among the data got here from a second, unidentified Tesla worker.)
Mr. Krupski mentioned he had gotten entry to delicate knowledge just by getting into search phrases in an inside firm web site, elevating questions on how Tesla protected the privateness of hundreds of staff and its personal secrets and techniques.
The Knowledge Safety Authority within the Netherlands, the place Tesla has its European headquarters, is investigating whether or not the breach violated privateness legal guidelines. A spokeswoman for the authority confirmed that it was investigating however declined to remark additional.
Tesla and three attorneys representing the corporate didn’t reply to requests for remark.
In the USA, Benson Pai, a former Tesla manufacturing employee, has sued the automaker in federal court docket in California, claiming that lax safety by Tesla uncovered worker data that could possibly be offered to criminals. Legal professionals for Mr. Pai are searching for approval from a choose to pursue the case as a category motion on behalf of tens of hundreds of Tesla staff.
Mr. Krupski shared the info with Aaron Greenspan, a distinguished Tesla critic and short-seller, who urged him to supply data he had collected about Autopilot to the U.S. Nationwide Freeway Visitors Security Administration. The protection company has had a long-running investigation into the software, which might steer, speed up and cease a automotive by itself however requires a driver to be able to take management at any second. The company has interviewed Mr. Krupski a number of instances, he mentioned, a sign that his data was taken significantly.
Mr. Greenspan mentioned he had begun closing out his quick positions in Tesla shortly after listening to from Mr. Krupski.
The U.S. security company has confirmed that it’s investigating whether or not Autopilot performed a task in a whole lot of accidents, some deadly, however declined to touch upon any interactions with Mr. Krupski. Tesla has maintained that Autopilot makes automobiles safer and just lately prevailed towards a lawsuit that had claimed the software program was answerable for a deadly crash in California.
Mr. Krupski and Mr. Greenspan additionally wrote a letter to the Securities and Change Fee elevating questions on Tesla’s accounting practices, primarily based partly on the info Mr. Krupski had collected. He mentioned he didn’t know what the fee had achieved with the data.
The S.E.C. didn’t reply to a request for remark.
Mr. Krupski remained nameless till he spoke on the record to Handelsblatt final week.
Within the interview with The Instances, Mr. Krupski, 38, mentioned he was unemployed and had exhausted his financial savings. He has served Tesla with formal discover that he intends to sue for compensation, however can’t pursue the case additional till he scrapes collectively sufficient cash to pay a lawyer. In contrast to attorneys in the USA, attorneys in Norway are usually not allowed to work on fee, gathering a share of any award in the event that they win however nothing in the event that they lose.
Tormod Tingstad, an Oslo lawyer, is representing Mr. Krupski freed from cost whereas they attempt to elevate cash.
None of this might have been foreseen on March 30, 2019, when Mr. Krupski, who had been employed only some months earlier, was a part of a crew summoned on quick discover to arrange Teslas for supply to clients in Norway, the place electrical autos account for greater than 80 p.c of recent automotive gross sales.
Tesla, which sells automobiles on to consumers, was utilizing house in an exhibition corridor close to Oslo to ship autos. 1000’s of individuals had been visiting a motor present in the identical complicated.
Round midday, a charging system that one other worker had improperly modified burst into flames beneath a Mannequin 3 sedan. Mr. Krupski yanked the system away and, along with his naked arms, pulled out wiring, pipes and different elements that had been burning and melting. He used rags and towels to suffocate the flames.
“It’s truthful to say that if it wasn’t for his motion, the end result would have been a automotive on fireplace,” Mr. Krupski’s supervisor wrote in an e mail to Mr. Musk the subsequent day. Mr. Krupski mentioned the fireplace may have unfold, endangering employees and clients ready close by and forcing evacuation of the motor present.
The one particular person significantly injured was Mr. Krupski, who was hospitalized with extreme burns however has recovered.
After Mr. Musk congratulated Mr. Krupski, the technician replied with complaints about security practices at Tesla’s Norwegian operation. On the day of the fireplace, he wrote, there have been no fireplace extinguishers, cardboard bins and different flammable materials had been strewn about, and staff weren’t briefed about the place they’d be working.
“OK, please let me know if there’s something we must always nonetheless do,” Mr. Musk replied, based on a duplicate of the e-mail included in authorized paperwork ready by Mr. Tingstad.
However Mr. Krupski’s direct communications with the Tesla chief government didn’t sit nicely along with his bosses in Norway. In response to Mr. Krupski, his supervisor started questioning his efficiency and telling him he had no future at Tesla.
“Lengthy story quick I’m being fired,” Mr. Krupski wrote to Mr. Musk in late April 2019, lower than 4 weeks after the fireplace. Mr. Musk replied, “I can’t learn emails until important to Tesla.” That was the top of their correspondence.
Within the months that adopted, Mr. Krupski mentioned, he was threatened and harassed by co-workers and exiled to a basement. One co-worker threatened to stab him within the again with a screwdriver, he mentioned. Mr. Krupski and different employees had been furloughed in the course of the pandemic, and he missed work due to stress-related well being issues. Then, in 2022, he was fired after being accused of unhealthy habits and poor time administration, and of being a detrimental affect.
His bosses additionally mentioned Mr. Krupski had taken footage at a Tesla facility in violation of firm coverage. He mentioned he had taken pictures to doc issues of safety, which included use of a rolling desk that staff put underneath a automotive when eradicating a battery. The desk was designed to bear a most of 500 kilograms (about 1,100 kilos), Mr. Krupski mentioned, whereas the batteries weighed considerably extra. If a desk collapsed, he mentioned, employees could possibly be significantly injured or killed.
In a letter to Mr. Krupski’s lawyer, a Norwegian legislation agency representing Tesla mentioned the corporate would dispute that he had been topic to retaliation. The letter accused Mr. Krupski of misappropriating firm data and threatened to hunt damages from him.
Tesla has obtained an injunction from a Norwegian court docket ordering Mr. Krupski to not distribute any extra firm data. The court docket additionally seized his laptop computer and turned it over to Tesla. The corporate notified staff of the info breach on Aug. 18, about three months after it realized that Handelsblatt had the data.
Info together with work e mail addresses, compensation and Social Safety numbers may need been leaked, Tesla informed staff in an e mail, however mentioned, “We’ve got no proof that any private data was misused or will likely be utilized in a way that might hurt you.”
Mr. Krupski mentioned that he had suffered from despair, anxiousness and sleeplessness because of his battle with Tesla, however that he felt relieved to now not be nameless.
“I really feel like simply by going public I’ve a brand new rush of power,” he mentioned. “I’ve motivation that, OK, I can perhaps begin constructing my life once more.”
Noam Scheiber contributed reporting.