NLRB says SpaceX illegally fired employees Musk criticizes
Federal labor officials on Wednesday accused rocket company SpaceX of illegally firing eight employees for circulating a letter critical of company founder and Chief Executive Elon Musk.
According to a complaint issued by a regional office of the National Labor Relations Board, the company fired employees in 2022 after calling on SpaceX to distance itself from Mr Musk's social media comments, including a comment that He had mocked the allegations of sexual harassment against him. ,
The letter circulated by employees also called on SpaceX, which has more than 13,000 employees, to clarify its harassment policies and enforce them more consistently.
The labor board's complaint said that the company's president and chief operating officer, Gwynne Shotwell, had illegally barred employees from circulating the letter, and it identified similar violations by other executives and managers.
The case is scheduled to go before an administrative judge in early March, unless SpaceX already agrees to the settlement.
“The rockets at SpaceX may be reusable, but the people who build them are considered expendable,” said Paige Holland-Thelen, one of the laid-off employees. “I am hopeful that these charges will hold SpaceX and its leadership accountable for their long history of mistreating workers and suppressing negotiations.”
SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Musk has sometimes taken a tough approach toward employees at his companies, such as when he fired nearly half the workforce at Twitter, now known as X, soon after buying the company in 2022. He later fired about two dozen internal critics. Twitter, which has lost about 80 percent of the 7,500 employees who worked there when the billionaire took over.
Tesla, where Mr Musk is chief executive, has spent years litigating a case in which the labor board accused it of firing an employee for engaging in union activity. The board ruled in 2021 that the firing was illegal and ordered Tesla to reinstate the employee with back pay, a decision affirmed by a federal court. company is attractive Matter further.
Justice Department SpaceX sued In August, she accused him of discriminating against asylum seekers and refugees in her appointment, but a judge issued a restraining order To stop that case from moving forward.
In December 2021, a former SpaceX employee published an essay She detailed incidents of harassment and harassment by colleagues, saying they were largely ignored after she reported them.
The essay caused an outcry within the company, which said it would launch an audit of its harassment policies.
Next spring, Business Insider report SpaceX paid $250,000 in 2018 to settle a claim in which an employee accused Mr Musk of exposing himself and making sexual advances to her. mr musk rejected Made allegations and made fun of it on Twitter.
Shortly afterward, a group of employees began brainstorming ideas to make the company less tolerant of harassment and drafting the letter. According to comments left on an internal communications forum seen by The New York Times, Ms. Shotwell was aware of the effort and appeared to support it.
In mid-June 2022, several employees circulated their letter to colleagues. The letter called Mr. Musk's public comments “a source of continued distraction and embarrassment for us” and urged the company to “uphold clear consequences for all unacceptable behavior, whether from the CEO or its first president.” Be it the employee starting the day.”
While some managers responded sympathetically, within hours Ms. Shotwell reprimanded the two employees involved in writing and distributing the letter, Tom Molin and Ms. Holland-Thelen. “Please immediately stop flooding employee communication channels,” Ms. Shotwell said in an email, adding, “I will consider your ignoring my emails as insubordination.”
The next day, the company fired Mr. Molin, Ms. Holland-Thelen and three other employees involved in organizing the letter. It fired four other people linked to the letter in July and August 2022. (The Labor Board considered only eight dismissals because the ninth employee did not file a formal charge.)
The labor board complaint said the firings were retaliatory and that Ms. Shotwell and other SpaceX executives interfered with employees' rights to engage in concerted activities that are legally protected.
It also said a vice president of the company took action by criticizing it in a meeting with employees in a meeting with employees a few days after the letter was circulated and “by inviting employees to quit if they disagreed with Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk's behavior.” broke the law. The Times previously reported that a vice president at the company told employees that the letter was an extremist act and that Mr. Musk could do whatever he wanted at the company.
The complaint also says a senior human resources executive illegally created the impression of surveillance when she showed screen shots of chats on a messaging app to employees involved in drafting the letter.
ryan mack Contributed to the reporting.