SpaceX is facing allegations from the federal labor agency, which claims that the company unlawfully terminated eight employees for circulating a letter critical of its founder and CEO, Elon Musk, as reported by the New York Times.

According to the complaint filed by a regional office of the National Labor Relations Board, the employees were dismissed in 2022 for advocating that SpaceX distance itself from Musk’s social media comments, including one where he made light of sexual harassment allegations against him.

The circulated letter also demands that SpaceX, with its workforce exceeding 13,000 employees, elucidate and consistently enforce its harassment policies.

The Labor Board complaint asserts that Gwyn Shotwell, the company’s president and chief operating officer, unlawfully restricted employees from distributing the letter. It also cites similar violations by other supervisors and managers.

The case is set to be heard by an administrative judge in early March, unless a settlement is reached before then. A labor board spokesperson mentioned that damages sought include reinstatement and payment of employee benefits.

“At SpaceX the rockets may be reusable, but the people who build them are treated as expendable. I am hopeful these charges will hold SpaceX and its leadership accountable for their long history of mistreating workers and stifling discourse”, said Paige Holland-Thielen, one of the employees who were fired.

SpaceX has not commented on the situation at this time.

As a reminder, last August the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against SpaceX, accusing it of discriminating against asylum seekers and refugees in its hiring practices, but a judge issued an injunction blocking that lawsuit from moving forward.

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