Former Workers Accuse SpaceX And Elon Musk Of Sex Harassment, Retaliation In Lawsuit

Eight former employees of SpaceX filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against the company and CEO Elon Musk alleging sexual harassment, a hostile work environment and retaliation.

In a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles, the employees alleged that the way Musk ran his company resulted in “treating women as sexual objects to be evaluated on their bra size, bombarding the workplace with lewd sexual banter, and offering the reprise to those who challenge the ‘Animal House’ environment that if they don’t like it they can seek employment elsewhere.”

Despite Musk’s past promotion of a “no asshole” workplace policy and “zero tolerance” of sexual harassment at SpaceX, several examples of alleged sexual harassment were included in the lawsuit.

Plaintiff Paige Holland-Thielen, who was hired as an engineer in 2018, claimed that a higher-ranking engineer showed her a graph with data points pointing downward and made a “sexual allusion to an erect penis,” saying, “How can we get it up, up, up?”

Holland-Thielen reported the interaction to human resources but was fired before she could learn the outcome of the investigation or even if there had been one opened. The higher-ranking engineer remained in his role at the company.

Another plaintiff, Rebekah Clark, was hired as an engineer in 2021 and said she noticed immediately that the culture at SpaceX was “hostile to women and that the culture was fostered from the top down by Musk.” In the lawsuit, she alleged that male co-workers repeated “inappropriate, sexually charged Twitter comments” that Musk had made.

In a later meeting with management about the comments, Clark said she suggested that Musk clarify that his tweets were his own views and did not reflect the views of the company, the suit states. SpaceX Vice President Jon Edwards allegedly responded by saying that that wasn’t possible because “SpaceX is Elon and Elon is SpaceX,” adding later that “there is no time to focus on these issues at work.”

The lawsuit also says that Musk had ordered their dismissal from the company as a means of retaliation for previously bringing up these concerns.

In June 2022, the same eight employees wrote an open letter to SpaceX executives laying out their concerns about the management and culture of the company.

The eight who signed the letter were fired over the next three months. In January, prosecutors at the National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint alleging that the employees were illegally fired and that the company had “invited employees to quit” and threatened them with termination for exercising their rights.

In the lawsuit filed Wednesday, the former employees claim that Musk had violated state and federal labor laws by retaliating against them for “opposing the discrimination, harassment, and hostile work environment that they observed.”

“To have been terminated for protesting SpaceX’s utter failure to take basic measures to prevent sexual harassment is patently retaliatory, wrong, and actionable,” Anne Shaver, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, said, according to Axios.

SpaceX did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.

In a Wall Street Journal article on Tuesday about the former employees’ accusations, SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer, Gwynne Shotwell, defended the company and said that it investigates and takes appropriate actions when handling sexual harassment complaints, adding that the Journal’s reporting of the accusations didn’t reflect the company’s culture.

“The untruths, mischaracterizations, and revisionist history in your email paint a completely misleading narrative,” she said. “I continue to be amazed by what this extraordinary group of people are achieving every day even amidst all the forces acting against us. And Elon is one of the best humans I know.”

Musk previously faced a sexual harassment complaint from a former flight attendant in 2018 who alleged that the company paid her $250,000 after Musk exposed himself to her during a massage on a plane and propositioned her to engage in sexual acts in exchange for a horse.