Former SpaceX employees have filed unfair labour practise charges with the National Labor Relations Board. It alleged retaliation for writing a letter critical of the company’s CEO, Elon Musk.
The eight former employees who were fired in June helped organise employees to draught an open letter condemning Musk’s online behaviour. The letter addressed a joke. Musk tweeted about a report claiming he paid a $250,000 settlement to a company flight attendant who accused him of sexual harassment. Musk has denied the claims.
Following the letter’s publication, a group of 20 employees met with a top SpaceX executive and were allegedly told by Jon Edwards, SpaceX’s vice president of Falcon Launch vehicles. They were distracting the company and that the letter was an “extremist act,” according to the New York Times. According to the complaint, nine employees were fired for questioning Musk.
Employees argued in the letter that SpaceX was not upholding its own “no asshole” policy. And demanded that the company “publicly address and condemn Elon’s harmful Twitter behaviour.”
The SpaceX complaint coincides with Musk’s public retaliation against employees at another company he now leads who openly correct or criticise him. The New York Times reported Musk had tasked subordinates with combing through internal communications to weed out naysayers. In addition to firing Twitter employees who had publicly criticised Musk in tweets.
Previously, Musk’s companies faced challenges from the National Labor Relations Board. It protects employees’ right to seek better working conditions without fear of retaliation. The NLRB upheld a decision in March 2021 that found Tesla to have engaged in unfair labour practises by firing a worker for attempting to unionise and for a Musk tweet discouraging unionisation.
Tesla also required employees to “renew their vows” and sign a new confidentiality agreement in response to the leaks. However, the non-disclosure agreement, which prohibited employees from speaking with the media, was found to be illegal.
Requests for comment were not immediately returned by SpaceX.
In addition to condemning Musk’s public behaviour, SpaceX employees asked the company in a June letter to reaffirm its commitment to a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment. The letter addresses Musk’s tweets mocking the allegations levelled against him in the Business Insider report. Some SpaceX employees have previously spoken out about a culture of sexism and rampant harassment. Ashley Kosak, a former engineer, wrote that her reports of harassment were frequently ignored at the company where she began as an intern. Other female interns echoed her complaints, claiming unwanted advances from other interns and men in higher-ranking positions.