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Fired SpaceX staff sue Elon Musk for sexual harassment and retaliation

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Eight former SpaceX engineers filed a lawsuit towards Elon Musk on Wednesday alleging sexual harassment and retaliation.

Musk, who based SpaceX in 2002, “knowingly and purposefully created an unwelcome hostile work atmosphere primarily based upon his conduct of interjecting into the office vile sexual pictures, memes, and commentary that demeaned girls and/or the LGBTQ+ group,” says the workers’ grievance, which was earlier reported by Bloomberg.

The grievance — which cites a lot of Musk’s Twitter posts making sexually specific jokes — claims that Musk fostered “a perversely sexist tradition at SpaceX.” A number of of the plaintiffs say they “skilled direct harassment that mimicked Musk’s posts.” Based on the go well with, senior engineers usually used phallic language throughout technical conferences, referring to mechanical components as “chodes” and “schlongs.”

Engineers allegedly used sexual jokes as product names

“It was additionally widespread for engineers to use crude and demeaning names to merchandise in an try at humor, usually on the expense of ladies and LGBTQ+ people. For instance, the identify ‘Upskirt Digital camera’ was used for a digicam on the primary stage of the Falcon rocket that views the underside of the second stage.” The grievance additionally cites a video “starring SpaceX’s higher administration, together with Vice President of Human Sources (HR) Brian Bjelde, President and CEO Gwynne Shotwell, and Elon Musk that mocks and makes gentle of sexual misconduct and banter.” 

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The previous workers, who’re additionally pursuing a National Labor Relations Board complaint towards SpaceX, collaborated on an open letter in 2022 that raised considerations about Musk’s habits and the broader firm tradition at SpaceX. The staff had been subsequently fired — and their lawsuit alleges the order to terminate them got here from Musk himself. Per Bloomberg, after a human assets official instructed SpaceX conduct an investigation, Musk replied, “I don’t care, fireplace them.”

After the letter was printed, Shotwell emailed two of the letter writers telling them to “cease flooding workers [sic] communications channels instantly,” the grievance claims. Shotwell later despatched a companywide e-mail “with the topic line ‘Please keep centered on the SpaceX mission,’ through which she referred to as the Open Letter ‘overreaching activism’ and said that ‘[w]e carried out an investigation and have terminated a lot of workers concerned,’” in accordance with the go well with.

The grievance targets each Musk and SpaceX. “Musk thinks he’s above the regulation. Our eight courageous shoppers stood as much as him and had been fired for doing so. We look ahead to holding Musk accountable for his actions at trial,” Laurie Burgess, an legal professional representing the previous engineers, mentioned in a statement.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of a Wall Street Journal report that Musk had sexual relationships with two SpaceX workers, together with a former intern he later employed onto his government workforce. A 3rd girl who spoke to the Journal mentioned Musk requested her a number of occasions to have his kids and complained about her work efficiency after she mentioned no. The lady mentioned she was additionally denied a elevate. 

Shotwell accused one of many girls of getting an affair together with her husband, in accordance with the Journal. After the girl reported this to HR, Shotwell reportedly “instructed the HR division at SpaceX that she wished the girl faraway from the workplace of the chief government,” the Journal’s article says. In an announcement to the Journal, Shotwell mentioned the report paints “a very deceptive narrative” of SpaceX’s firm tradition.

Some former SpaceX workers disagree. In 2021, after a former SpaceX worker printed an essay detailing a number of situations through which she was groped by her male colleagues, 5 former workers claimed there was a culture of sexual harassment on the firm. The staff mentioned HR dealt with complaints poorly. In 2022, Business Insider reported {that a} flight attendant on Musk’s personal jet claimed he uncovered himself to her.

SpaceX didn’t instantly reply to The Verge’s request for remark.

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