Fired SpaceX employees sue the company for wrongfully terminating critics of CEO Elon Musk

NEW YORK (AP) — Eight former employees sued SpaceX and its CEO Elon Musk, alleging that Musk ordered them fired after they challenged what they called rampant sexual harassment and a hostile “Animal House”-style work environment at the company.

The employees, who filed suit in a California state court, detailed their complaints in a 2022 open letter to management they shared via a company intranet. The next day, four of the plaintiffs were fired, they alleged; others were terminated later after an internal investigation.

In January, the federal National Labor Relations Board filed its own complaint against SpaceX based on issues raised by nine fired employees.

Among other workplace concerns, the open letter called on executives to condemn Musk’s public behavior on X — the platform then known as Twitter — and to hold all employees accountable for unacceptable conduct. Musk’s actions included making light of sexual harassment allegations against him — charges that the billionaire denied.

“As our CEO and most prominent spokesperson, Elon is seen as the face of SpaceX — every tweet that Elon sends is a de facto public statement by the company,” the open letter said at the time. The letter also referred to Musk’s actions as a ”frequent source of distraction and embarrassment.”

The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified monetary damages.

The complaint drew connections between Musk’s behavior — in particular, his often lewd posts on Twitter — and the working environment at SpaceX. It states that one of the plaintiffs, Yaman Abdulhak, noted that many of the inappropriate examples cited in a 2021 “appropriate behavior” employee training “closely resembled the contents of Musk’s tweets.” Abdulhak sent examples of those tweets to the SpaceX human resources director, who took no action, the complaint stated.

SpaceX did not immediately reply to an emailed request for comment.

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