SpaceX Wins Temporary Block On NLRB Case Over Fired Engineers

SpaceX Engineers NLRB Case

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has temporarily blocked a National Labor Relations Board case accusing SpaceX of illegally firing engineers who criticized CEO Elon Musk.

This comes as the rocket company pursues a legal challenge to the agency’s structure. A three-judge panel in New Orleans issued a single-sentence order on Thursday, barring the NLRB from proceeding with the administrative case pending SpaceX’s appeal of a judge’s “effective denial” of its motion for an injunction.

Despite SpaceX’s two failed attempts to overrule a decision by U.S. District Judge Rolando Olvera in Brownsville, Texas, to transfer the case to California at the NLRB’s request, the company pressed Olvera to reconsider the transfer and take up its motion for a preliminary injunction pending the outcome of its lawsuit.

SpaceX claims in its lawsuit that the NLRB’s in-house enforcement proceedings violate the U.S. Constitution in various ways and that administrative judges and board members are improperly insulated from removal by the president.

Notably,, Starbucks, and Trader Joe’s have raised similar arguments in pending board cases.

The NLRB declined to comment on the 5th Circuit order, and SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In the underlying board case, SpaceX faces accusations of firing eight engineers who signed onto a letter to company executives accusing Musk of sexism and other misconduct.

SpaceX has asserted that the workers’ actions were disruptive and not protected by federal labor law. The company sued the NLRB a day after the agency issued the complaint in January, and it has since filed a similar lawsuit in Waco, Texas, federal court stemming from a separate board complaint involving the company’s severance agreements.

The 5th Circuit’s order will likely delay a ruling by a special master on challenges to subpoenas in the administrative case, which is pending before an administrative judge in Los Angeles, and could push back hearings that were slated to be held in the case over the summer.

The 5th Circuit panel comprises Circuit Judges Jerry Smith and Andrew Oldham, appointees of former Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump, respectively, and Carl Stewart, who was appointed by Democratic former President Bill Clinton.