SpaceX accused of labor law violations

SpaceX alleged it violated workers’ rights under federal labor law

SpaceX, the aerospace company renowned for its rockets and satellites, has been accused by a US agency of wrongfully terminating eight employees who circulated a letter criticizing founder and CEO Elon Musk.

According to a complaint issued by a regional official with the National Labour Relations Board (NLRB), SpaceX is alleged to have violated the workers’ rights under federal labor law to collectively advocate for improved working conditions.

The letter, dispatched to SpaceX executives in June 2022, scrutinized Musk’s tweets made since 2020, many of which were deemed sexually suggestive. The employees contended that Musk’s statements contradicted the company’s policies on diversity and workplace misconduct and urged SpaceX to denounce them.

The complaint also asserts that SpaceX subjected employees to questioning about the letter disparaged those involved, and issued threats of termination for similar activities.

As of now, SpaceX has not responded to the allegations.

Deborah Lawrence, one of the terminated employees, described SpaceX as having a “toxic culture” that tolerates harassment, particularly against women. She emphasized that the open letter to leadership was driven by concern for the mission and the well-being of individuals within the organization.

The NLRB’s general counsel, functioning as a prosecutor, is responsible for bringing cases before the five-member board appointed by the president. If a settlement is not reached, the case will proceed to an administrative judge, with a hearing scheduled for March 5.

In the event of a finding that SpaceX violated labor law, the NLRB has the authority to order reinstatement and back pay for affected workers. Additionally, the company could face increased penalties in subsequent cases.

This case adds to a series of allegations against companies affiliated with Elon Musk, with Reuters previously reporting on unreported workplace injuries at SpaceX facilities. The NLRB also issued a complaint against X (formerly known as Twitter), another Musk-owned venture, for allegedly unlawfully firing an employee over tweets challenging the company’s return-to-office policy.

Furthermore, Tesla Inc., where Musk serves as CEO, has encountered NLRB complaints and lawsuits related to race discrimination amid a union organizing campaign, with the company asserting a zero-tolerance policy towards discrimination.

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