Former SpaceX employees have filed charges with the NLRB claiming that SpaceX unlawfully fired nine employees for working collectively to stop sexual harassment and gender discrimination.
SAN FRANCISCO (November 17, 2022) — Eight former SpaceX employees filed unfair labor practice charges against the company on November 16, 2022. The charges allege that SpaceX violated the National Labor Relations Act by terminating the employees for engaging in protected concerted activity.
Specifically, the employees were fired for being part of a larger group that drafted a letter to SpaceX’s executive team expressing concern about recent allegations of sexual harassment by CEO Elon Musk, and his harmful behavior on Twitter that hurt the company’s reputation and also the company culture. The letter called on SpaceX to take appropriate remedial action including condemning Musk’s harmful Twitter behavior, holding leadership accountable, and seeking uniform definition and enforcement of SpaceX’s “No Asshole” policy. The letter was shared internally within SpaceX only, and called for other employees to sign on to endorse the recommendations.
The charges allege that SpaceX fired five employees the day after the letter came out, and four more over the course of the following two months. Two employees – Tom Moline and Paige Holland-Thielen, filed charges on their own behalf. Attorneys Anne Shaver and Laurie Burgess filed charges on behalf of six other employees who are proceeding anonymously.
Paige Holland-Thielen notes: “As a woman engineer at SpaceX I experienced the deep cultural problems firsthand and spent countless hours comforting my peers and colleagues going through the same things and worse. It was clear that this culture was created from the top level. Part of what was supposed to be so great about SpaceX was that any person at any level could escalate issues to leadership and be taken seriously and treated with respect. We drafted the letter to communicate to the executive staff on their terms and show how their lack of action created tangible barriers to the long term success of the mission. We never imagined that SpaceX would fire us for trying to help the company succeed.”
Tom Moline comments: “As a senior engineer at SpaceX, I was entrusted with the design and operation of systems that were critical to SpaceX’s overall mission of achieving interplanetary spaceflight. My teammates and I were given significant autonomy to achieve this goal, and were repeatedly told to do whatever it takes to accomplish it as soon as possible. Management used this ‘ends justifies 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 the words and actions of the CEO. We drafted the open letter to bring these issues to the forefront and start the hard work of building a culture that was worthy of these lofty goals. I hope that this NLRA claim will demonstrate that no one is above the law, and empower SpaceXers to continue to speak up and fight for a better, more equitable workplace.”
Lieff Cabraser partner Anne Shaver notes: “SpaceX committed egregious violations of the law in its handling of the open letter. It had an extraordinary opportunity to engage with dedicated employees who cared enough about the company to speak up about harassment and discrimination. Instead, it viciously retaliated against them. SpaceX must be held accountable.”
Attorney Laurie Burgess comments: “It’s shocking that SpaceX appears to believe that its mission of getting humans to Mars justifies turning a blind eye to workers’ basic civil rights. I’m proud to represent the brave employees who stepped up to challenge SpaceX’s conduct by collectively advocating for basic workplace protections.”
Information about Employees’ Counsel
The former SpaceX employees are represented by Anne Shaver and Lin Chan of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP and Laurie Burgess of Burgess Law Offices, PC.
Anne B. Shaver
Lin Y. Chan
Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP
275 Battery Street, 29th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94111-3339
Telephone: (415) 956-1000
Burgess Law Offices P.C.
498 Utah St.
San Francisco, CA 94110