SpaceX and Elon Musk Sued by Former Employees Alleging Gender Discrimination and Harassment

Chesnot/Getty Images via Vanity Fair Photo Source: Chesnot/Getty Images via Vanity Fair

Elon Musk and SpaceX are currently facing a new lawsuit filed by eight former employees alleging they were terminated for raising concerns about pervasive gender discrimination and sexual harassment at the aerospace manufacturer. The lawsuit paints a troubling picture of a workplace environment described as hostile and reminiscent of a "Animal House"-style fraternity.

The employees who filed the lawsuit in a California state court initially detailed their grievances in a 2022 open letter to management, which they posted on the company's intranet. The letter advocated for a more inclusive corporate culture, criticized Musk’s public behavior on social media, and included at least 400 other employees' signatures who supported the initiative for a better work environment.

Specifically, the open letter urged SpaceX executives to publicly distance the company from Musk’s controversial statements and to enforce the company’s “No A**hole” policy consistently across all levels of staff. One of the plaintiffs, Yaman Abdulhak, noted that many of Musk’s tweets bore a striking resemblance to inappropriate examples cited in SpaceX’s 2021 “appropriate behavior” employee training. Abdulhak sent these examples to SpaceX's human resources director, but alleges no action was initiated.

In the complaint, the former employees also recount instances of gender discrimination and sexual harassment, asserting that Musk’s behavior on social media contributed significantly to the toxic work environment.

The lawsuit alleges that the workplace culture at SpaceX included the use of “crude and demeaning names to products in an attempt at humor, often at the expense of women and LGBTQ+ individuals.” One cited example was the term ‘Upskirt Camera’ which “was used for a camera on the first stage of the Falcon rocket that views the bottom of the second stage.”

The plaintiffs claim their terminations followed the dissemination of the open letter considering four of the individuals were allegedly fired the next day, and others terminated after an internal investigation.

In a previous response to the 2022 open letter, SpaceX COO Gwynne Shotwell stated that the company upholds “zero tolerance” standards against harassment. However, as reported by The New York Times, she also stated that the employees were fired because their actions made other staff members feel “uncomfortable.”

The lawsuit filed by the former employees seeks unspecified monetary damages for lost wages, emotional distress, and other benefits. The plaintiffs assert that despite their complaints, SpaceX has not taken meaningful action to address the “harassment, hostile work environment, or retaliation” they faced.

Nina Richards
Nina Richards
Nina earned her Bachelor's Degree in Psychology from Brandman University, laying the foundation for her interest in and understanding of human behavior. She works full-time at Law Commentary and is dedicated to merging her passion for pop culture with legal insights. Combining her analytical skills and interest in staying updated on trends, she strives to deliver pop culture legal news, bridging the gap between law and contemporary society.
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