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SpaceX illegally fired workers who criticized Elon Musk, federal labor watchdog says

Federal labor regulators allege that SpaceX illegally fired employees who publicly criticized Elon Musk, the exploration company’s founder and CEO.

According to allegations laid out in a complaint filed Wednesday by a regional office of the National Labor Relations Board, SpaceX wrongfully terminated eight employees and interrogated dozens more in 2022 after the workers wrote and shared an open letter calling for the company’s leadership to condemn Musk’s “disparaging” and “sexually charged” comments on social media

The letter criticized SpaceX management for what the authors called the company’s failure to tackle a culture of “sexism, harassment and discrimination” within its workplace, the NLRB said in the complaint. Separately, they asked SpaceX to “condemn” Musk’s “harmful Twitter behavior.”

“Elon’s behavior in the public sphere is a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment for us,” workers wrote in the letter. 

SpaceX also “told other employees that the eight were discharged for participating in the open letter, interrogated other employees about the open letter (and instructed employees not to discuss the investigatory interviews), created an impression of surveillance (including reading and showing screenshots of communications between employees), disparaged participation in the open letter, and restricted employees from distributing the open letter,” the NLRB said in a statement. 

Unless SpaceX settles the case, a hearing on the complaint will be held before an administrative law judge on March 5, an NLRB spokesperson told CBS MoneyWatch. 

The NLRB has the authority to order companies to rehire workers who were wrongfully terminated. SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Musk’s leadership style has also drawn criticism from workers at one of his other companies. In 2022, employees of X, formerly known as Twitter, alleged they lost their jobs after disagreeing with Musk’s comments about the company in public and private conversations. 

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