SpaceX faces labor charges after firing employees who criticized Elon Musk

Magnify / Elon Musk arrives at 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 they sent out an internal letter criticizing Elon Musk have filed charges that they were fired illegally. Allegations of unfair labor practices for “retaliatory firing” were filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) yesterday, a former employee law firm said. Press Release.

“The allegations allege that SpaceX violated the National Labor Relations Act by firing employees for engaging in protected concerted activity,” law firm Lieff Cabraser said. “Specifically, the employees were fired for being part of a larger group that drafted a letter to SpaceX’s executive team expressing concern over recent allegations of sexual harassment by CEO Elon Musk and his harmful behavior on Twitter that damaged the company’s reputation and also companies. culture.”

The letter urged “SpaceX to take appropriate corrective action, including condemning Musk’s harmful behavior on Twitter, holding management accountable, and seeking to uniformly define and enforce SpaceX’s ‘No Asshole’ policy.” The letter was shared only internally within SpaceX and urged other employees to sign and support the recommendation,” the press release said.

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

Cultural issues “made from the top level”

The staff letter said SpaceX executives should “publicly address and condemn Elon’s harmful behavior on Twitter” and that the company “must quickly and explicitly disassociate itself from Elon’s personal brand.” The letter included “recent allegations against our CEO and his public disparagement of the situation,” referring to message that SpaceX paid a flight attendant $250,000 in 2018 to settle sexual misconduct allegations against Musk. Musk denied the claim, and Shotwell wrote in an email to employees that “I believe the allegations to be false.”

The staff letter also said that “Elon’s behavior in the public sphere has been a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment to us, particularly in recent weeks.” The letter accused the company of failing to apply its policies equally to executives and employees, writing that “SpaceX must establish safe reporting pathways and enforce clear consequences for any unacceptable behavior, whether by the CEO or employee from day one.”

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

Holland-Thielen released this statement:

As an engineer at SpaceX, I experienced first-hand the profound cultural issues 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 highest level. Part of what was supposed to be so great about SpaceX was that anyone at any level could escalate management issues and be taken seriously and treated with respect. We drafted the letter to inform executives of their conditions and show how their inaction 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 justifies the means” philosophy to turn a blind eye to the ongoing mistreatment, harassment and abuse reported by my colleagues, most of whom were directly encouraged and inspired by the CEO’s words and actions. We prepared an 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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