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SpaceX accused of unlawfully firing staff critical of Elon Musk

  • has been accused of firing eight workers who were of its multi-billionaire chief executive Elon Musk.
  • A complaint by a US labour agency says the employees sent an open letter to the firm’s executives in 2022, detailing workplace concerns.
  • The letter called him a “distraction and embarrassment”, according to Reuters news agency.
  • The has approached the rocket and satellite firm for comment.
  • The complaint by a regional official at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) accused SpaceX of violating the workers’ rights under federal labour law which allows co-workers to jointly advocate for better working conditions.
  • The complaint also said those involved in the open letter were interrogated before being discharged.
  • Lawyers for one of the former employees, Deborah Lawrence, have reportedly accused SpaceX of having a “toxic culture”, where harassment is tolerated.
  • In a statement, seen by Reuters, Ms Lawrence said: “We wrote the open letter to leadership not out of malice, but because we cared about the mission and the people around us”.
  • The NLRB’s general counsel acts like a prosecutor and brings cases to the five-member board appointed by the organisation’s president.
  • If SpaceX does not settle, the case will be heard by an administrative judge, whose decision can be appealed to the board and then to a federal appeals court. A hearing is scheduled for 5 March.
  • If the NLRB finds that the firings violated labour law, it can order that workers be reinstated and given back pay.
  • Mr Musk’s companies have been accused of violating employees’ rights before.
  • In October, the NLRB accused X, formerly known as Twitter, of illegally firing an employee over tweets challenging the company’s return-to-office policy. X denied wrongdoing.
  • Electric car maker Tesla has also faced several NLRB complaints, which included allegations of race discrimination at its factories. Tesla has said it does not tolerate discrimination.
  • In August, the US Department of Justice sued SpaceX, alleging it discriminated against refugees and asylum seekers in its hiring practices.
  • At the time, Mr Musk posted on X: “US law requires at least a green card to be hired at SpaceX, as rockets are considered advanced weapons technology”.

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