SpaceX Settles Allegations of Stifling Employee’s Speech

SpaceX has settled allegations of stifling an employee’s right to discuss workplace conditions with other SpaceX employees. The U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed the allegations after the employee complained.

The unnamed employee had communicated with SpaceX’s human resources department about issues in the workplace. He had been told not to discuss the matter with coworkers.

The complaint with the NLRB was filed in September 2022. The NLRB alleged that SpaceX reprimanded the employee for discussing potential collective action “involving opposition to offensive racial comments in the workplace.”

The settlement requires that SpaceX file a notice of employees’ rights at its workplace in Redmond, Washington, and digitally notify employees of their rights. The Redmond facility produces Starlink satellites.

SpaceX did not admit wrongdoing in the settlement. Neither has it issued a statement or responded to media queries about the complaint.

The NLRB can require that companies change their policies or reinstate fired employees if they violate labor regulations, but cannot impose fines or hold senior employees personally liable for violations.

Elon Musk’s companies have faced several complaints about potentially toxic and racially charged workplace environments. Most recently, the Justice Department alleged that SpaceX discriminates against refugees and asylum seekers when making employment-related decisions.

SpaceX denies the allegations, saying that it gets thousands of applications for each position and hiring foreign nationals who have not been fully vetted for certain positions may violate national security-related regulations. SpaceX frequently bids on military launch contracts, including occasionally launching classified payloads. It has filed a request to dismiss the lawsuit, alleging that the venue selected by the Justice Department denies it the right to a jury trial.

The NLRB is also investigating the dismissal of nine employees who complained about the workplace environment. These employees had signed a letter protesting “inappropriate, disparaging, sexually charged comments” that Elon Musk had posted on X (formerly Twitter).

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has also filed a lawsuit against Tesla alleging a hostile workplace environment at its factory in Fremont, California. Tesla has faced years’ worth of complaints from employees alleging the prevalence of racial slurs and occasional racist graffiti in restrooms.

Tesla also lost its appeal of a court case in which the NLRB alleged retaliation against employees who were attempting to unionize. The case involved a tweet posted by Elon Musk that the NLRB interpreted as an illegal threat against employees who were advocating for a union.

X/Twitter recently settled the NLRB’s allegations of retaliation against employees who protested against its “return to the office” policy. Many employees previously worked remotely.

California’s legislature introduced a bill meant to strengthen the rights of employees in the event of layoffs after Twitter required that laid-off employees sign a non-disparagement clause to receive severance pay.

The National Labor Relations Board’s latest settlement with an Elon Musk-headed company continues Elon Musk’s often-rocky relationship with regulators. In this case, it settled a complaint that SpaceX attempted to stifle an employee’s speech when handling a Human Resources-related matter.