Elon Musk Targeted In Lawsuit Alleging Sex Bias, Unfair Firings At SpaceX

Rocket maker SpaceX and its CEO Elon Musk faced a lawsuit on Wednesday from eight engineers who allege illegal termination for raising concerns about sexual harassment and discrimination against women. The engineers, comprising four women and four men, claim Musk ordered their firing in 2022 after they circulated a letter criticizing the billionaire as a “distraction and embarrassment” and urging executives to disavow his sexually charged comments on social media. They filed the lawsuit in state court in Los Angeles.

The plaintiffs cited several tweets by Musk, including one from 2022 where he told the former CEO of YouTube, “if you touch my wiener, you can have a horse.” They argue that Musk’s behavior fostered a “pervasively sexist culture” at SpaceX, where female engineers routinely faced harassment and sexist comments, and the company ignored their concerns about workplace culture. According to the lawsuit, senior engineers used euphemisms for sexual acts and male genitals to describe rocket components.

“These actions offended, caused distress, and disrupted our emotional tranquility in the workplace,” the plaintiffs stated in the lawsuit.

SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company denied wrongdoing, claiming the 2022 letter was disruptive and that it properly fired the workers for violating company policies. SpaceX also denied Musk’s involvement in the decision to fire the engineers.

Holding SpaceX Accountable?

Paige Holland-Thielen, one of the plaintiffs, said in a statement provided by her lawyers that the lawsuit aims to hold SpaceX leadership accountable and spur changes in workplace policies.

“We hope this lawsuit encourages our colleagues to stay strong and continue fighting for a better workplace,” she said.

The eight engineers are also at the center of a U.S. National Labor Relations Board case, claiming that their firings violated their rights under U.S. labor law to advocate for better working conditions. SpaceX responded by filing a lawsuit, claiming that the labor board’s in-house enforcement proceedings violate the U.S. Constitution. A U.S. appeals court last month paused the NLRB case while considering SpaceX’s bid to block it pending the outcome of the company’s lawsuit.

Wednesday’s lawsuit accuses SpaceX and Musk of retaliation and wrongful termination in violation of California law. It further accuses the company of sexual harassment and sex discrimination. The plaintiffs seek unspecified compensatory and punitive damages and an order barring SpaceX from continuing its allegedly unlawful conduct.