Elon Musk's SpaceX Facing California Investigation Over Discrimination, Sexual Harassment Against Female Workers

By Jace Dela Cruz

Feb 07, 2024 03:50 AM EST

Elon Musk's SpaceX is under scrutiny by a California civil rights agency following allegations of unaddressed bias and sexual harassment against female employees. 

AI Safety Summit - Day One
(Photo : Leon Neal/Getty Images)
BLETCHLEY, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 01: SpaceX, X (formerly known as Twitter), and Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks with members of the media during day one of the AI Safety Summit at Bletchley Park on November 01, 2023 in Bletchley, England.

California Launches Inquiry Into Alleged Gender Bias in Elon Musk's SpaceX 

According to Reuters, the California Civil Rights Department initiated an investigation into SpaceX after receiving complaints from a group of engineers who alleged they were fired for speaking out against discriminatory practices in the company. 

According to labor attorney Laurie Burgess, who represented the workers, the engineers filed complaints with the agency in January, which prompted the investigation.

These engineers are also the focus of a case that the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has filed against SpaceX, accusing Elon Musk's company of violating federal labor law by sacking them.

However, SpaceX has denied any wrongdoing and sued the NLRB instead to block its lawsuit from moving forward. The company claimed that the agency's board members and in-house judges were appointed improperly under the US Constitution.

In the six of the California complaints acquired by Reuters, the engineers alleged that SpaceX, which has headquarters in Hawthorne, California, favors men over women for job opportunities and promotions, pays female workers less than men who do comparable work, ignores sexual comments and other harassment, and retaliates against employees for complaining.

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SpaceX Allegedly Permits Work Environment Hostile to Female Workers

The engineers, who were dismissed two years ago after disseminating an open letter critical of Elon Musk's behavior, asserted that SpaceX nurtures a work environment hostile to female employees and to any workers who object to discrimination and harassment.

In their 2022 letter, the workers called Musk a "distraction and embarrassment" and criticized the tech billionaire's response to a flight attendant's sexual harassment allegations. The letter also said that many of Musk's social media posts since 2020 were sexually suggestive.

SpaceX has yet to respond to the allegations. California Civil Rights Department has also yet to comment, likely because the agency was prohibited by state law from commenting on pending cases.

Burgess emphasized that the complaints were intended to vindicate the engineers and create a safer work environment for all SpaceX employees.

Bloomberg reported that SpaceX has until later this month to respond to the California civil rights agency, which will determine whether to dismiss the complaints or broker a settlement. It could also permit the workers to sue or file its own lawsuit against SpaceX.

READ MORE: Elon Musk's 'Illegal Drug Use' Is Worrying Executives at SpaceX and His Other Firms: Report 

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