The NLRB found merit in former SpaceX employees’ charges that SpaceX unlawfully coerced, interrogated, surveilled, and fired them for working collectively to stop sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

Approximately one year after eight former SpaceX employees represented by Lieff Cabraser and Burgess Law Offices filed unfair labor practice charges against SpaceX, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) has concluded its investigation and issued a complaint against the company alleging 37 separate violations of law. The charges stem from the company’s response to the employees’ letter to SpaceX’s executive team, which expressed concern about allegations of sexual harassment by CEO Elon Musk, and his harmful behavior on Twitter that hurt the company’s reputation, infected the company culture and created a toxic work environment. In response to the employees’ plea for systemic change to correct these concerns, SpaceX launched a campaign of intimidation and coercion: pulling employees into clandestine interrogations by HR, falsely claiming the meetings were attorney-client privileged, and telling employees to keep the meetings a secret even from their managers. SpaceX also fired nine employees for their involvement in the letter.

The NLRB’s complaint includes 37 separate violations of Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act: 11 for coercive statements, 2 for coercive statements/implied threats, 7 for interrogation, 4 for unlawful instructions, 3 for impression of surveillance, and 10 for retaliation for involvement in protected concerted activity.

Charging party Paige Holland-Thielen said: “At SpaceX the rockets may be reusable but the people who build them are treated as expendable. I am hopeful these charges will hold SpaceX and its leadership accountable for their long history of mistreating workers and stifling discourse.”

Charging Party Tom Moline said: “I had no doubt that the NLRB would recognize SpaceX’s actions for what they were: feeble attempts to punish, intimidate, and silence me and hundreds of other workers who simply sought to improve workplace conditions and address the toxic culture set by Elon Musk, enforced by Gwynne Shotwell, and enabled by all levels of SpaceX leadership. We will not be silenced, and I am confident that SpaceX will be held accountable for their illegal actions.”

Charging Party Deborah Lawrence said: “SpaceX’s ‘mission above all else’ mentality hurts everyone in the organization by allowing people to get away with harmful behavior, including harassment, groping, and physical violence, directed disproportionately at women. The toxic culture has resulted in many hard-working people, who were otherwise highly motivated by the company’s mission, quitting. We wrote the open letter to leadership not out of malice, but because we cared about the mission and the people around us. We believed that SpaceX could be a better place and that you can have a healthy, safe workplace and still reach the stars.”

Attorney Anne Shaver said: “The NLRB has spoken: SpaceX violated our clients’ workplace rights. This kind of flagrant violation of the law cannot be allowed to go unchecked. We look forward to trial.”

Attorney Laurie Burgess said: “Musk has been thumbing his nose at the law and signaling to management that he, and they, don’t need to play by the rules. This creates an intolerable work life in which employees are left without recourse for violations of basic civil right protections. We laud our clients for standing up and saying ‘no’ to this bully and demanding that SpaceX abide by the same workplace rules that all companies in America are required to acknowledge and respect. We look forward to putting Musk on the witness stand and holding him accountable for his actions.”

Trial is set to begin March 5, 2024.

Information about Employees’ Counsel

The former SpaceX employees are represented by Anne Shaver of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP and Laurie Burgess of Burgess Law Offices, PC. The docket information for the client charges is: 31-CA-307446; 31-CA-307514; 31-CA-307525; 31-CA-307532; 31-CA-307539; 31-CA-307546; 31-CA-307551; and 31-CA-307555.


Anne B. Shaver
Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP
275 Battery Street, 29th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94111-3339
Telephone: (415) 956-1000

Laurie Burgess
Burgess Law Offices P.C.
498 Utah St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
(312) 320-1718

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