SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk has been accused by a U.S labor agency of wrongly firing nine employees. These employees had been circulating a letter calling Elon Musk a “distraction and embarrassment.”
A complaint was issued by an official of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), accusing SpaceX of violating workers’ rights. According to federal labor law, employees can join together to advocate for better working conditions.
In June 2022, a letter was sent to the company’s executives by several employees. This letter highlighted a series of sexually suggestive and inappropriate tweets Musk had been posting since 2020. The employees stated that Musk’s posts did not align with the company’s diversity and workplace misconduct policies, and implored SpaceX to denounce them.
The NLRB complaint also accused the company of investigating employees about the letter, then threatening to fire workers who engaged in similar activity. SpaceX has had a history of harassment allegations, particularly against women, and creating a toxic workplace. Deborah Lawrence, one of the employees that was terminated stated that the letter was written because they care about the company’s mission and the people that are a part of SpaceX.
Once the NLRB determines that the termination of the employees violated labor law, SpaceX can be ordered to reinstate the employee, give back pay, and runs the risk of facing costly penalties.
SpaceX has been previously accused of violating employees’ rights several times. In November of 2023, more than 600 unreported workplace injuries were documented. These injuries include crushed limbs, electrocution, head injuries and one death. In October of 2023, X, the social media service previously known as Twitter, was accused of illegally terminating an employee for posting tweets against the company’s return-to-office policy. Tesla Inc., has also faced several NLRB complaints regarding alleged widespread race discrimination at its factories and a jury recently awarded $130 million in one such California case against Tesla.
Musk’s company has until mid-January to respond to the NLRB’s complaint. Filing the complaint is the first step towards litigating the allegations and seeking a settlement. If both parties are unable to reach a settlement, a hearing is scheduled to begin on March 5th in Los Angeles, California.