SpaceX executives allegedly made crass, sexually charged remarks in the workplace, discriminated against female employees and fired workers who raised alarms about the conduct, according to California civil rights complaints.
The allegations were made by seven California-based former employees who were fired by SpaceX in 2022 – shortly after they circulated an open letter ripping CEO Elon Musk’s public conduct as a “distraction and embarrassment” to the space firm.
The California Civil Rights Department notified SpaceX of the nature of the complaints last month, according to Bloomberg, which obtained copies of the complaints. SpaceX likely has 30 days to respond to the filings.
One of the employees, Paige Holland-Thielen, described an incident in which she approached an unnamed manager to discuss another colleague’s “inappropriate behavior.”
Before she could explain what had happened, the manager allegedly saw downward-pointing data open on her computer screen, made a sexually-charged remark and asked Holland-Thielen, “How can we get it, up, up, up?”
The workers allege that SpaceX’s failure to address their concerns violated California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, which prohibits sex-based discrimination and retaliation.
Holland-Thielen, an engineer, said she was hired in 2018 and given a lower-tier employee designation than male colleagues with similar career experience.
She alleged that SpaceX held back her career progress due to her gender.
The ex-employee said she complained to a manager that a male coworkers was taking credit for her work – only to be told she was being “too emotional” and “should be more humble” in a subsequent performance review, the filing said.
SpaceX representatives did not immediately return a request for commen.
The California Civil Rights Department could not immediately be reached.
SpaceX brass also allegedly took a flippant attitude after sexual misconduct allegations against Musk surfaced in a 2022 Business Insider report.
The same HR director reportedly said the allegations against Musk were reminiscent of “fifty shades of grey,” in apparent reference to the popular romance novels.
Another ex-worker, Tom Moline, alleged that SpaceX employees would often quote crude content that Musk had posted on X, the app formerly known as Twitter.
“Basically anything that would make a freshman frat initiate laugh was fair game in large parts of the company,” Moline told the outlet.
Moline alleged in his complaint that SpaceX executives “told me that my employment was being terminated because they had determined that I was responsible for conceiving, writing, and distributing the open letter” criticizing’s Musk conduct.
The same workers who filed the civil rights complaints also are involved in a National Labor Relations Board lawsuit accusing SpaceX of violating federal law by firing right employees who circulated the open letter.