SpaceX terminations come under fire

5th Jan 2024
SpaceX terminations come under fire

On 3 January, the U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) formally filed a complaint against SpaceX, combining eight individual cases brought by employees in November 2022. These employees claimed they were terminated for engaging in activities protected under the National Labor Relations Act.

The matter of the complaint

The complaint originated from the distribution of an open letter through the company’s computer system in June 2022. The letter urged SpaceX to disassociate itself from the social media conduct of its CEO, Elon Musk. It expressed concerns about Elon’s public behaviour, describing it as a regular cause of distraction and embarrassment for the employees. It also emphasized that every tweet from Elon was perceived as a de facto public statement by the company.

Requirements of employees to SpaceX

The letter urged SpaceX to promptly distance itself from Elon Musk’s personal brand. It also outlined the need for the company to clearly articulate its “zero tolerance” policies for unacceptable behaviour, alleging that these policies were being applied unevenly.

SpaceX terminations result

Following the publication of the open letter, SpaceX terminated certain employees (their identities kept confidential in the public complaint) immediately. Furthemore, additional dismissals occurred in the weeks that followed.

The NLRB complaint highlighted that unidentified SpaceX officials indirectly encouraged employees to resign if they wanted to participate in protected concerted activities. Furthermore, the complaint noted implicit threats of dismissal if employees persisted in discussing the matters raised in the open letter.
The complaint further alleges that SpaceX exhibited or verbally conveyed communications exchanged among the employees regarding the letter. This action “gave the impression to its employees that their protected concerted activities were being monitored” by the company.

The NLRB’s conclusions and efforts

The NLRB determined that SpaceX has been impeding, limiting, and pressuring employees in exercising their rights protected by the National Labor Relations Act. At this time, the NLRB is pursuing remedies, which involve providing training on the act for SpaceX managers and issuing letters of apology to the terminated employees. While the complaint does not specify monetary damages, it states that the board is seeking any other appropriate relief to rectify the alleged unfair labour practices.

SpaceX’s reaction and further steps in regulating the conflict

The SpaceX terminations have not been discussed but the company. However, SpaceX has until 17th January to officially respond to the complaint by submitting a formal answer to the NLRB.
A hearing on the complaint is slated for 5th March, but it is emphasized that the NLRB encourages both parties to explore settlement discussions before the scheduled hearing date.

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