Former SpaceX workers file suit alleging harassment, wrongful termination

Eight former engineers accuse CEO Elon Musk of overseeing a ‘pervasively sexist culture’ at the rocket company.

SpaceX is being sued by eight former employees [Joe Skipper/Reuters]

Eight former SpaceX engineers have filed a lawsuit accusing the rocket company and its CEO Elon Musk of firing them for raising concerns about the treatment of female employees.

In a lawsuit filed in California on Wednesday, the former employees alleged that Musk personally ordered their termination after they circulated a letter within SpaceX raising concerns about the billionaire’s sexually charged comments on social media.

The lawsuit accuses Musk of overseeing a “pervasively sexist culture” and “‘Animal House’ environment”, with women evaluated on their bra size and bombarded with sexual banter.

The suit references a number of Musk’s comments on his social platform X, including a post telling former YouTube CEO Chad Hurley, “If you touch my wiener, you can have a horse”.

“SpaceX management knowingly permitted and fostered a work environment rife with sexual harassment,” Anne B Shaver, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said in a statement.

“To have been terminated for protesting SpaceX’s utter failure to take basic measures to prevent sexual harassment is patently retaliatory, wrong, and actionable.”

Paige Holland-Thielen, one of the plaintiffs, said in a statement released by her lawyers that the suit was an “important milestone in our quest for justice”.

“We hope that this lawsuit encourages our colleagues to stay strong and to keep fighting for a better workplace,” she said.

The former employees are seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages and an order prohibiting SpaceX from continuing to engage in unlawful conduct.

SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The former employees earlier filed a case with the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) accusing the company of violating US labour law.

The NLRB last month told a federal judge in Texas that it would suspend its case against SpaceX in order to expedite a final ruling in a lawsuit by the company that claims the agency’s structure and procedures violate the US Constitution.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies