Inside a medical clinic not far from Tesla’s electric car factory, Yvette Bonnet started noting a troubling pattern. The automaker’s workers’ compensation manager would pressure her boss, Dr. Basil Besh, to make sure Tesla wasn’t on the hook for certain injured workers.
And in her observation, Besh did whatever he could to not jeopardize his chance to run Tesla’s on-site factory clinic.
“He would say, ‘I’m not losing the contract over this – get this case closed,’” said Bonnet, who was operations manager for Besh’s Access Omnicare clinic in Fremont, California, for about a year.
“Besh wanted to make certain that we were doing what Tesla wanted so badly,” she said. “He got the priorities messed up. It’s supposed to be patients first.”
It’s not unusual for employers to be pushy about how they want their workers’ injuries handled, Bonnet said. But the intensity of Tesla’s pressure, she said, combined with Besh’s willingness to let bottom-line concerns influence clinical decisions, made this situation different from any Bonnet had encountered.
Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting previously reported that Tesla systemically kept worker injuriesoff the books, artificially improving its safety record and violating the law on recording workplace injuries. We also showed that Tesla’s medical clinicignored worker injuries, sending the hurt back to work without proper treatment and helping the company claim publicly that it had improved. Besh said in an interview last year that Tesla doesn’t pressure him to dismiss injuries and that his determinations are “only based on what the patient needs.”
However, interviews with former clinicemployees and internal clinic communications show how Tesla and Besh coordinated behind the scenes in an arrangement that financially benefited both the carmaker and the doctor, to the detriment of the injured. Neither Tesla nor Besh responded to questions for this story.