SpaceX faces labor charges after firing employees who criticized Elon Musk

SpaceX faces labor charges after firing employees who criticized Elon Musk

Elon Musk in a tuxedo upon arriving at the 2022 Met Gala.
Enlarge / Elon Musk arrives for the 2022 Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 2, 2022 in New York City.

Getty Images | Angela Weiss

Eight former SpaceX employees who were fired after circulating an internal letter criticizing Elon Musk have filed suit for being unlawfully terminated. Unfair labor practice charges for the “retaliatory terminations” were filed yesterday with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the former employees’ law firm said in a news release.

“The charges allege that SpaceX violated state labor relations law by firing employees for engaging in protected concerted activity,” law firm Lieff Cabraser said. “Specifically, the employees were terminated for being part of a larger group that authored a letter to SpaceX’s management team expressing concern over CEO Elon Musk’s recent sexual harassment allegations and behavior. detrimental on Twitter that has damaged the company’s reputation and also the company’s culture.”

The letter urged “SpaceX to take appropriate corrective action, including condemning Musk’s harmful behavior on Twitter, holding executives accountable, and seeking consistent definition and enforcement of SpaceX’s ‘No Asshole’ policy. The letter was shared internally within SpaceX only and called out to other employees. to sign off to endorse the recommendations,” the press release reads.

We wrote about the layoffs in June. At the time, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell wrote in an email to staff that “the letter, the solicitations and the general process made employees feel uncomfortable, intimidated and intimidated and/or angry. because the letter urged them to sign something that did not reflect their views.”

Cultivation issues “created from the top level”

The employee letter said SpaceX executives should “publicly call out and condemn Elon’s harmful behavior on Twitter” and that the company “must promptly and explicitly part ways with Elon’s personal brand.” The letter referred to “recent allegations against our CEO and his public bashing of the situation,” in reference to a report that SpaceX paid a flight attendant $250,000 to settle a sexual misconduct complaint against Musk in 2018. Musk denied the complaint and Shotwell wrote in an email to staff that “I believe the allegations are false”.

The employee letter also stated that “Elon’s behavior in the public sphere has been a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment for us, particularly in recent weeks.” The letter accused the company of not applying its policies equally to executives and employees, writing that “SpaceX must establish safe pathways to report and maintain clear repercussions for any unacceptable behavior, whether from the CEO or of an employee from day one”.

The charges filed with the NLRB “allege that SpaceX terminated five employees the day after the letter was released, and four more over the next two months,” the law firm said. The complaints relate to eight of the nine employees. “Two employees – Tom Moline and Paige Holland-Thielen – filed the complaint on their own behalf. Attorneys Anne Shaver and Laurie Burgess filed the complaint on behalf of six other employees who are proceeding anonymously,” the press release said.

Holland-Thielen released this statement:

As a female engineer at SpaceX, I experienced the deep cultural issues firsthand and spent countless hours comforting my peers and colleagues who were going through the same things and worse. It was clear that this culture was created from the top level. Part of what was supposed to be so great about SpaceX was that anyone at any level could escalate issues to management and be taken seriously and treated with respect. We wrote the letter to communicate to executive staff about their conditions and how their inaction has created tangible obstacles to the long-term success of the mission. We never imagined that SpaceX would fire us for trying to help the company succeed.

Moline said SpaceX management used an “ends justify the means” philosophy to condone the ongoing mistreatment, harassment and abuse reported by my colleagues, much of which was directly encouraged and inspired by the words and actions of the CEO. We wrote the open letter to bring these issues to the fore and begin the hard work of building a culture worthy of these lofty goals.”

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