The U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has recently filed a complaint against SpaceX, a defense contractor led by Elon Musk. The complaint alleges that the company illegally fired eight employees after they wrote an open letter criticizing Musk and accusing the workplace of tolerating sexual harassment. This complaint, obtained by CNBC through a Freedom of Information Act request, sheds light on a series of concerning allegations and actions by SpaceX.
The eight employees of SpaceX engaged in concerted activities with other employees by drafting and distributing an open letter detailing their workplace concerns. In this letter, they expressed their frustrations with Musk’s behavior, stating that his actions in the public sphere frequently caused distractions and embarrassment for them. They criticized Musk’s divisive social media posts and accused him of engaging in alleged sexual misconduct, which contradicted SpaceX’s own policies against such behavior. The open letter was initially circulated internally at SpaceX after reports emerged that Musk had been involved in a sexual harassment claim, which SpaceX reportedly settled for $250,000 in 2018. Musk vehemently denied the allegations.
Coercion and Illegal Firings
Following the publication of the open letter, SpaceX management allegedly interrogated the authors and made coercive statements to them. They even went as far as inviting the employees to quit if they disagreed with Musk’s behavior. The NLRB found that such actions constituted a violation of protected speech and concluded that SpaceX had illegally fired the employees involved.
Musk’s Stance on Free Speech
Elon Musk often presents himself as a free speech advocate or absolutist. However, reports suggest that his companies have repeatedly attempted to stifle criticism by suppressing the speech of others. Under Musk’s ownership, the social network X (formerly known as Twitter) has suspended accounts that share records or remarks critical of Musk or his businesses. This apparent contradiction raises questions about the true extent of Musk’s commitment to free speech.
In addition to the NLRB complaint, the fired SpaceX employees have also filed a formal complaint with the California Civil Rights Department. This complaint alleges a failure to address and correct sexual harassment within the company. Given the significant operations and headquarters of SpaceX in Hawthorne, California, this complaint further adds to the mounting concerns surrounding the company’s actions and workplace culture.
Following the NLRB investigation, the agency’s Los Angeles regional director has issued a consolidated complaint against SpaceX. The next course of action will involve seeking a settlement between the company and the former employees who were dismissed after voicing their concerns. If a settlement cannot be reached, a hearing before an NLRB administrative law judge is scheduled to commence on March 5 in Los Angeles. However, it is important to note that a judge’s decision is not necessarily final and can be appealed to the NLRB board and federal appeals court.
The NLRB’s complaint against SpaceX exposes serious allegations of illegal firing and the cover-up of sexual harassment within the company. The open letter written by the eight employees highlights their concerns regarding Elon Musk’s behavior and the workplace’s handling of sexual misconduct. This case not only raises questions about the alleged mistreatment of employees but also puts Elon Musk’s commitment to free speech under scrutiny. As the legal proceedings unfold, it remains to be seen how this controversy will impact SpaceX and whether the company will be held accountable for its actions.