Activist company

SpaceX unlawfully fired workers for criticizing Musk and company culture, complaint says

SpaceX unlawfully fired nine people earlier this year in retaliation for comments critical of founder Elon Musk and the company’s culture, a former employee alleged in a complaint to federal regulators.

The fired SpaceX workers include the authors of an open letter protesting Musk’s “inappropriate, derogatory and sexually charged comments on Twitter,” according to the filing filed Wednesday with the National Labor Relations Board.

The complaint states that the workers were terminated “for engaging in the basic concerted protected activity of speaking out against SpaceX’s failure and refusal to address the culture of sexism, harassment and discrimination. “.

A representative for the company, officially known as Space Exploration Technologies Corp., did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.

The move heightens tension over an unusually public incident for the closely held rocket launch company.

SpaceX fired several employees in June over the open letter, which called Musk’s behavior a “frequent source of distraction and embarrassment for us,” and called on SpaceX management to condemn and distance itself from the “brand personal” from Musk.

The fallout prompted a heated internal meeting, according to The New York Times, which previously reported the NLRB filing.

At that meeting, some workers lobbied a manager over the recent report that the company had settled a sexual harassment complaint against Musk, according to the Times.

US law prohibits companies from retaliating against workers for taking collective action related to their working conditionswith or without union.

Complaints filed with the NLRB are investigated by regional officials who, if they find merit in the allegations and cannot obtain a settlement, file a complaint on behalf of the Board’s General Counsel. work.

Court decisions can be appealed to NLRB members in Washington and then to federal court.

Agency has power to order companies to reinstate dismissed workers and pay back wagesbut generally cannot hold executives personally liable for alleged wrongdoing or issue punitive damages.

NLRB members ruled last year that Musk’s electric vehicle company, Tesla Inc., repeatedly violated labor laws, including firing a union activist and via a threatening tweet sent by Musk.Tesla has denied any wrongdoing and is appealing the decision in federal court.