Former employees sue SpaceX

Former employees sue SpaceX

SpaceX founder Elon Musk speaks at a press conference following the first launch of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Skipper/File Photo - RC15B6B3A870

Eight former SpaceX employees have sued the company and its CEO Elon Musk, claiming they were illegally fired for raising concerns over rampant sexual harassment and gender discrimination.



“Musk’s conduct of interjecting this juvenile, grotesque sexual banter into the workplace had the wholly foreseeable and intentional result of encouraging other employees to engage in similar conduct,” the lawsuit reads.

The news comes the same week as a scathing new Wall Street Journal report that revealed Musk had sex with a SpaceX college intern.

The employees behind the latest lawsuit penned an open letter, accusing Musk of failing to fulfill SpaceX’s “No Asshole” and zero-tolerance sexual harassment policies.

Not long after, at least five of the letter’s authors were fired, with SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell accusing them of making other workers feel “uncomfortable, intimidated and bullied, and/or angry because the letter pressured them to sign onto something that did not reflect their views.”



The lawsuit is the latest escalation, shedding light on a well-documented work culture at the space company that has been rife with unprofessional behavior. And it’s not just SpaceX — Musk’s other ventures, most notably Tesla, have been accused of similar things.

In 2021, former mission integration engineer Ashley Kosak published an essaydescribing the company as being “so rife with sexism, the only remedy is for women to leave.”

Kosak alleged that “countless men made sexual advances” towards her, touched her without her consent, and even showed up at her house. Even after she brought these incidents up with HR, “nothing was done.”

Then, a month before the employees’ open letter was published, Insider reported that the space company had paid off a flight attendant to silence her after she accused Musk of exposing himself to her and propositioning her for sex. SpaceX paid her $250,000, documents showed.



The incident clearly infuriated many at the company.

“Elon’s behavior in the public sphere is a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment for us, particularly in recent weeks,” read the letter, which was signed by at least 400 employees.

Musk has made plenty of sexist comments himself over the years. In late 2021, he joked in a since-deleted tweet thread that degrees at his fictional university — named Texas Institute of Technology & Science to make a crude acronym joke — would be based on women’s physical characteristics.

He has also been an outspoken opponent of gender expression, tweeting that “pronouns suck.” He has accused senator Elizabeth Warren of reminding him of “my friend’s angry Mom” who “would just randomly yell at everyone for no reason.” In March, he deleted a tweet in which he accused his ex-wives of being among “Reasons that Western Civilization died.”

In short, the letter seems to be a pretty believable documentation of the kind of work culture you’d expect at a company run by the mercurial CEO.

Now, eight former employees who were involved in writing the 2022 letter have filed a lawsuit in a state court in California, alleging that SpaceX illegally fired them.

They also allege that other engineers commonly gave others “crude and demeaning names” in an “attempt at humor, often at the expense of women and LGTBQ+ individuals.”

The complaint disclosed that a camera on a Falcon rocket was dubbed the “Upskirt Camera,” referring to an angle that “views the bottom of the second stage.”

The employees are seeking damages to make up for “lost wages, earnings, and other employee benefits, emotional distress.”

It’s the beginning of what will likely turn out to be a long and ugly court battle in the absence of a settlement.

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