Former SpaceX employees accuse the company of unlawfully firing them
SpaceX is under scrutiny for allegedly unlawfully dismissing eight employees who had expressed criticism of CEO Elon Musk.
A complaint filed by a US labor agency states that the workers, who sent an open letter to the company's executives in 2022 outlining workplace concerns, were fired in violation of their rights under federal labor law.
According to news reports, the open letter referred to Elon Musk as a "distraction and embarrassment."
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) accuses SpaceX of violating the workers' rights to jointly advocate for better working conditions, as allowed by federal labor law. The complaint also alleges that those involved in the open letter were subjected to interrogations before being discharged.
Deborah Lawrence, one of the former employees, has claimed that SpaceX fosters a "toxic culture" where harassment is tolerated. In a statement reported by a popular publication, Lawrence emphasized that the open letter was written out of concern for the mission and the people involved.
The NLRB's general counsel, acting as a prosecutor, will present the case to the five-member board appointed by the organization's president.
If SpaceX does not reach a settlement, the case will proceed to an administrative judge, whose decision can be appealed to the board and then to a federal appeals court. A hearing is scheduled for March 5th.
Should the NLRB find that the firings violated labor law, it has the authority to order the reinstatement of workers and award back pay.
This development adds to a history of allegations against Musk's companies for violating employees' rights.
Notably, in October, the NLRB accused Twitter (now known as X) of illegally firing an employee over tweets challenging the company's return-to-office policy.
Tesla, another company under Elon Musk's leadership, has faced multiple NLRB complaints, including allegations of race discrimination at its factories. Tesla has consistently stated that it does not tolerate discrimination.
In a separate incident in August, the US Department of Justice sued SpaceX, alleging discrimination against refugees and asylum seekers in its hiring practices.
Elon Musk responded on Twitter, stating that US law requires at least a green card for employment at SpaceX due to rockets being considered advanced weapons technology.
The unfolding case against SpaceX adds to the ongoing scrutiny of Musk's corporate practices in various ventures.