**Elon Musk’s SpaceX Accused of Wrongfully Terminating Employees Who Spoke Out**
Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, SpaceX, and the CTO of X, is facing accusations from the U.S. National Labor Relations Board alleging that his defense contractor, SpaceX, wrongfully terminated eight employees after they spoke out against the company. The employees had written an open letter critical of Musk and accused the workplace of being selectively permissive of sexual harassment.
**The Allegations and Open Letter**
The complaint filed by the NLRB states that the eight SpaceX employees were engaged in concerted activities for the purpose of mutual aid or protection when they drafted and distributed the open letter detailing their workplace concerns. In the letter, the employees expressed their concerns about Musk’s behavior in the public sphere being a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment. They cited his divisive social media posts and alleged sexual misconduct, which they believed contradicted SpaceX’s “no assholes” and “zero tolerance” policies.
The employees’ open letter was posted internally at SpaceX following reports of Musk’s alleged sexual misconduct towards a flight attendant on one of the company’s private jets in 2016. Musk has denied these allegations, and SpaceX reportedly settled the sexual harassment claim for $250,000 in 2018.
**NLRB Findings and Allegations**
The NLRB found that company management at SpaceX engaged in interrogation of the authors of the open letter and made coercive statements to them, including inviting the employees to quit if they disagreed with Musk’s behavior. Subsequently, the NLRB complaint alleges that SpaceX illegally fired the employees over their protected speech.
**Musk’s Stance on Free Speech**
Despite Musk’s portrayal of himself as a free speech advocate, his companies have been accused of seeking to stifle critical speech. Under Musk’s ownership, the social network formerly known as Twitter (now X) has suspended accounts of users who criticized Musk or his businesses. This includes individuals such as Travis Brown, a software developer, and Aaron Greenspan, the founder of PlainSite, an online database of legal and public records.
**Legal Actions and Looking Ahead**
In response to their termination, the SpaceX employees have filed a formal complaint with the California Civil Rights Department alleging a failure to correct sexual harassment at SpaceX. The NLRB’s Los Angeles regional office has issued a consolidated complaint against SpaceX, and a hearing is scheduled to take place on March 5, 2024. The office will seek a settlement between SpaceX and the terminated employees, and if a settlement is not reached, the matter will proceed to a hearing before an NLRB Administrative Law Judge.
The allegations of SpaceX wrongfully terminating employees after they spoke out against the company highlight the complexities of the relationship between employees, free speech, and corporate policies. The legal proceedings and investigations stemming from these allegations further emphasize the importance of a fair and respectful work environment within organizations.