Musk’s SpaceX sued over alleged discrimination against refugees in hiring

US Department of Justice says company wrongly claimed law meant it could only hire citizens and permanent residents.

SpaceX is being sued by the US Department of Justice over its hiring practices [File: Jae C Hong/AP Photo]

SpaceX, the rocket company owned by Elon Musk, has been sued by the United States government for allegedly discriminating against asylum seekers and refugees in its hiring practices.

SpaceX wrongly claimed that the company could only hire US citizens and permanent residents due to export control laws, dissuading asylum seekers and refugees from applying for jobs, the US Department of Justice said in a statement on Thursday.

While SpaceX must comply with legal restrictions on the shipment of certain goods and technologies overseas, US law does not require companies to treat asylum seekers and refugees differently than citizens or green card holders, the justice department said.

The justice department said it would ask the courts to impose civil penalties on SpaceX and seek backpay for asylum seekers and refugees who were deterred from applying for jobs or denied employment.

“Our investigation found that SpaceX failed to fairly consider or hire asylees and refugees because of their citizenship status and imposed what amounted to a ban on their hire regardless of their qualification, in violation of federal law,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the justice department’s Civil Rights Division said.

“Our investigation also found that SpaceX recruiters and high-level officials took actions that actively discouraged asylees and refugees from seeking work opportunities at the company. Asylees and refugees have overcome many obstacles in their lives, and unlawful employment discrimination based on their citizenship status should not be one of them.”

In a post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, Musk said the lawsuit was “yet another case of weaponisation of the [justice department] for political purposes”.

“SpaceX was told repeatedly that hiring anyone who was not a permanent resident of the United States would violate international arms trafficking law, which would be a criminal offence,” said Musk, who owns X.

“We couldn’t even hire Canadian citizens, despite Canada being part of NORAD!”

SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Musk, one of the world’s wealthiest people, founded SpaceX in 2002 with the goal of reducing the costs of space missions and facilitating future interplanetary travel.

The company also offers a commercial internet service via Starlink, a collection of thousands of low-orbit satellites, which has played a key role in Ukraine’s battlefield communications since Russia’s invasion of the country.

Source: Al Jazeera