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SpaceX Sued By Former Employees Over Retaliatory Firings

SpaceX headquarters

Former SpaceX employees are suing the company and its CEO, Elon Musk, for alleged illegal firing after reporting sexual harassment and discrimination.

The lawsuit was filed in California state court in Los Angeles on Wednesday, June 12.

The employees were terminated in 2022 after circulating an open letter urging SpaceX executives to denounce Musk’s comments on Twitter, now known as X.

They described it as “a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment for us.” 

According to the complaint, Musk ordered their firing after becoming aware of the letter.

Laurie Burgess, the lawyer representing the former employees, said: “Our eight brave clients stood up to him and were fired for doing so.

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“We look forward to holding Musk accountable for his actions at trial.”

The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified compensatory damages. 

SpaceX has not yet responded to a request for comment.

The lawsuit describes SpaceX’s workplace as an “Animal House” rife with inappropriate and sexually suggestive behavior. 

Several plaintiffs reported experiencing harassment from other SpaceX employees that mimicked Musk’s posts, creating a hostile work environment.

The lawsuit claims SpaceX executives were regularly informed of grievances regarding Musk’s explicit social media messages.

It says these complaints were routinely dismissed. 

This was the case even after a "sexual harassment internal audit" conducted by Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and COO.

Following the terminations, Shotwell emailed SpaceX employees that there was “too much critical work to accomplish and no need for this kind of overreaching activism.”

The same eight former employees are also pursuing charges against SpaceX with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). 

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In January, SpaceX counter-sued the NLRB, arguing that the agency's structure is unconstitutional and that the complaint should be dismissed.

The lawsuit comes a day before Tesla shareholders are expected to conclude a vote on a pay package for Musk worth approximately $45 billion. 

The lawsuit describes SpaceX’s workplace as “Animal House”

It also follows a report in The Wall Street Journal detailing Musk’s history of sexual relationships with co-workers.

This lawsuit adds to a growing list of grievances against Musk. 

In 2022, Business Insider reported SpaceX had paid $250,000 to settle a claim Musk exposed himself to an employee on a private plane.

Musk called the claim "wild accusations."

After acquiring the company, he also laid off roughly half of Twitter’s workforce and later fired another two dozen internal critics. 

Additionally, last August, the Justice Department sued SpaceX for discriminating against refugees and asylum seekers in its hiring practices.

Paige Holland-Thielen, one of the plaintiffs, said: “We hope that this lawsuit encourages our colleagues to stay strong and to keep fighting for a better workplace.”

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