DOJ sues Elon Musk’s SpaceX for allegedly refusing to hire refugees and asylum seekers
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a discrimination lawsuit against Elon Musk-owned rocket and satellite company SpaceX on Thursday for allegedly refusing to hire refugees and asylum seekers.
“The lawsuit alleges that, from at least September 2018 to May 2022, SpaceX routinely discouraged asylees and refugees from applying and refused to hire or consider them, because of their citizenship status, in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA),” the Justice Department said in a statement on its website.
In job postings and public statements over several years, SpaceX wrongly claimed that under federal regulations known as “export control laws,” SpaceX could hire only U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, sometimes referred to as “green card holders,” the DOJ added.
The Justice Department also highlighted instances of “discriminatory public statements” made by the company’s billionaire owner, Musk, in online posts.
As part of the lawsuit, reference was made to a June 2020 post on X, formerly known as Twitter, by CEO Musk. He had shared with his then 36 million followers that “U.S. law requires at least a green card to be hired at SpaceX, as rockets are advanced weapons technology.”
Meanwhile, this is not the first time a discrimination lawsuit has been filed against Musk’s companies. As we reported back in 2020, two former Tesla workers accused the company of the use of the ‘N-word’ at Musk’s California factory. They said that they were subjected to repeated racial epithets dozens of times, as well as racist cartoons and that supervisors engaged in or did little to stop the racism. They later sued Tesla for racial discrimination.
Meanwhile, U.S. Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s civil rights division said:
“Our investigation found that SpaceX failed to fairly consider or hire asylees and refugees because of their citizenship status and imposed what amounted to a ban on their hire regardless of their qualification, in violation of federal law.”
She also added: “Our investigation also found that SpaceX recruiters and high-level officials took actions that actively discouraged asylees and refugees from seeking work opportunities at the company. Asylees and refugees have overcome many obstacles in their lives, and unlawful employment discrimination based on their citizenship status should not be one of them. Through this lawsuit, we will hold SpaceX accountable for its illegal employment practices and seek relief that allows asylees and refugees to fairly compete for job opportunities and contribute their talents to SpaceX’s workforce.”
Clarke went on to say that recruiters and top-level executives at SpaceX took steps to “actively discourage” individuals seeking asylum and refugees from pursuing job prospects within the company.
DOJ further noted that the United States seeks fair consideration and back pay for asylees and refugees who were deterred or denied employment at SpaceX due to the alleged discrimination. The United States also seeks civil penalties in an amount to be determined by the court and policy changes to ensure it complies with the INA’s nondiscrimination mandate going forward.
The lawsuit also calls for court-determined civil penalties and the implementation of policy adjustments to guarantee that SpaceX adheres to federal non-discrimination requirements moving forward.