A regional official with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed a complaint alleging that SpaceX violated workers’ federal labor law rights to organize and advocate for better working conditions.
The letter sent to SpaceX executives in June 2022 focused on a series of sexually suggestive tweets Musk had made since 2020. The employees claimed Musk’s comments contradicted the company’s policies on diversity and workplace misconduct, and they demanded that SpaceX condemn them.
The complaint also accuses SpaceX of questioning employees about the letter, disparaging those who were involved, and threatening to fire employees who engaged in similar behavior.
SpaceX did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
Deborah Lawrence, one of the fired employees, said in a statement provided by her lawyers that SpaceX has a “toxic culture” in which harassment is tolerated, particularly against women.
“We wrote the open letter to leadership not out of malice, but because we cared about the mission and the people around us,” said Lawrence.
The NLRB’s general counsel acts as a prosecutor, bringing cases before the president-appointed five-member board.
If SpaceX fails to reach an agreement, 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 has been set for March 5.
When the NLRB determines that firings violated labor law, it has the authority to order workers’ reinstatement and back pay. If SpaceX is found to have broken the law, it may face harsher penalties in future proceedings before the board.
The case is the latest to accuse Musk’s companies of violating employees’ labor and employment laws.
According to Reuters, at least 600 previously unreported workplace injuries at SpaceX facilities occurred in November, including crushed limbs, electrocution, head injuries, and one death. SpaceX did not respond to inquiries about the findings.
The NLRB filed a complaint in October accusing X, Musk’s social media service formerly known as Twitter, of illegally firing an employee for tweeting about the company’s return-to-work policy. X has denied all allegations of wrongdoing.
And Tesla Inc (TSLA.O), of which Musk is CEO, has received several NLRB complaints in the midst of a union organizing campaign and numerous lawsuits alleging widespread racial discrimination at its factories. Tesla has stated that it will not tolerate discrimination.