Fired SpaceX employees accuse the company of violating labor laws

NEW YORK (AP) — Several SpaceX employees who were fired after circulating an open letter decrying CEO Elon Musk’s behavior have filed a lawsuit accusing the company of violating labor laws.

The complaint, filed Wednesday with the National Labor Relations Board, details the consequences of what allegedly happened inside SpaceX after employees circulated the letter in June, which, among other things, called on executives to condemn the Musk’s public behavior on Twitter — including shedding light on allegations that he sexually harassed a flight attendant — and held everyone accountable for unacceptable conduct.

The letter was sent weeks after a media report surfaced that Musk paid the flight attendant $250,000 to quash a potential sexual harassment lawsuit against him. The billionaire denied the allegations.

In their letter, the employees urged SpaceX to consistently enforce its policy against unacceptable behavior and to engage in a transparent process for responding to allegations of misconduct. A day later, Paige Holland-Thielen and four other employees who helped organize the letter were fired, according to the filing, which was filed by Holland-Thielen at an NLRB regional office in California. Four other employees were fired weeks later for their involvement in the letter.

A company spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Musk, who is the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX and currently runs Twitter, prefers to do things his own way, even if it means breaking rules and regulations. He is currently in a provocative fight with the Civil Rights Department, a California regulator that is suing Tesla. for endemic racial discrimination.

Some view Musk’s management style as autocratic and demanding, as evidenced by a recent email he sent to Twitter staff giving them until Thursday night to decide if they want to stay with the company. Musk wrote that employees “will have to be extremely hardcore” to build “a revolutionary Twitter 2.0” and that long, high-intensity hours will be needed to succeed.

A number of engineers also said on Twitter that they were made redundant last week. after saying something critical of Musk, either publicly on Twitter or on an internal messaging forum for Twitter employees.

In a statement, Holland-Thielen said that as a female engineer at SpaceX, she had encountered “deep cultural issues” and comforted colleagues who had encountered similar issues.

“It was clear that this culture was created at the highest level,” she said.

Still, she said part of what she loved about the company was that anyone could escalate issues to management and be taken seriously.

“We wrote the letter to communicate to executive staff about their conditions and show how their inaction has created tangible obstacles to the long-term success of the mission,” Holland-Thielen said. “We never imagined that SpaceX would fire us for trying to help the company succeed.”

Layoffs coincide with Musk’s $44 billion buyout or Twitter. Around the same time, the billionaire used a sexual term to poke fun at Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates’ belly and also posted a poo emoji while chatting with then-Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal. .

After firing the first group of employees, SpaceX reportedly interviewed dozens more over the next two months in private meetings, telling them they could not disclose those conversations to anyone else due to professional secrecy. the lawyer, according to the complaint. Four additional employees who helped write or share the letter were terminated in July and August, according to the filing, totaling nine layoffs.

“Management has used this ‘ends justify the means’ philosophy to turn a blind eye to the ongoing mistreatment, harassment and abuse reported by my colleagues, much of which was directly encouraged and inspired by words and actions. from the CEO,” Tom said. Moline, who was also fired from SpaceX after organizing the letter.

Jeffery Pfeffer, a professor specializing in organizational behavior at Stanford University’s business school, said the allegations were hardly a surprise given Musk’s leadership style on Twitter. Musk’s success at companies like Tesla and SpaceX created what he called hubris under the false notion that it was “individual genius.”

“Powerful people can break the rules. They don’t think they’re bound by the same conventions as everyone else,” Pfeffer said, criticizing Musk’s behavior. He said it showed the arrogance of Musk, one of the richest men in the world: “Why would he think he’s a mere mortal?”

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Thickets reported in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

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