According to The New York Times, eight former SpaceX workers claim they were unjustly dismissed for writing a letter criticizing Elon Musk and have filed a lawsuit against the firm for unfair labor practices.
If you remember, The Times reported in June that SpaceX had dismissed staff members who had contributed to an open letter criticizing Elon Musk’s “destructive Twitter conduct.”
They were specifically making reference to the CEO’s vulgar Twitter comments about a flight attendant for the company’s corporate plane accusing him of sexual misbehavior.
The flight attendant alleged that Musk had promised to purchase her a horse in return for sex acts, and SpaceX settled with her for $250,000.
Evidently, eight of the nine employees who lost their employment as a result of the letter had complaints pending with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
Part of the letter said that “Elon’s conduct in the public domain is a regular cause of distraction and humiliation for us.”
The authors of the letter also gave suggestions on how to improve the organization and tighten its procedures against sexual harassment, including the recommendation that SpaceX should make public any more Musk harassment claims.
According to reports, the leadership of SpaceX first showed sympathy and was open to the suggestions made by the employees in their submissions.
They swiftly, nevertheless, shifted their position. Gwynne Shotwell, president, and chief operating officer of SpaceX, informed staff in a letter at the time that some of the personnel engaged in producing the letter had in fact been let go.
She said, “The letter encouraged workers to sign onto something that did not represent their values, and the solicitations and overall procedure made people feel uneasy, intimidated, harassed, and/or outraged.”
The Times contacted lawyers who indicated the employees likely had legal protection under the National Labor Relations Act, which guarantees workers the ability to form unions for the purpose of collective bargaining and other “mutual help or protection.”
According to Wilma Liebman, the former NLRB chairman under Barack Obama, SpaceX might claim that the employees wrote the letter only to disparage Musk, which would violate the law.
But she added that the board of directors is likely to disagree and view Musk’s tweets as acts that foster an intimidating workplace.