Elon Musk sued over SpaceX’s ‘hostile and abusive’ workplace

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has a new lawsuit on his hands. A group of former employees is suing the billionaire for allegedly “treating women as sexual objects” at his space exploration company, SpaceX.

The lawsuit, which was filed on June 12, alleges Musk exposed all eight former employees to “unwanted conduct and comments of a sexual nature” that allegedly “created a hostile and abusive work environment.”

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“Elon Musk (‘Musk’) trumpets Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (‘SpaceX’) as the leader to a brave new world of space travel, but runs his company in the dark ages—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,” reads the lawsuit.

Former SpaceX employees expose alleged incidents of sexual harassment 

In the lawsuit, former SpaceX employee Rebekah Clark claims that male engineers at the company often repeated Musk’s inappropriate comments on Twitter, which made her uncomfortable.

“Clark observed that the male engineers that she worked with repeated Musk’s inappropriate, sexually charged Twitter comments,” reads the lawsuit. “For example, she heard comments about ‘tits’ at work following Musk’s Tweet about creating ‘TITS’ university. The uninhibited openness of employees’ repetition of Musk’s foul “jokes” in the workplace created a great deal of discomfort and unease for Clark.”

People watch from Canaveral National Seashore as a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. 

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Another former employee, Paige Holland-Thielen, claimed in the suit that she was “subjected to sexual harassment” while working at SpaceX. In one example, she reveals that when she was working with principal engineer Dan Mayo on a project, he allegedly “made a sexual allusion to an erect penis “ while she showed him a “graph that plotted data pointing downward” on her computer screen.

“Holland-Thielen was fearful of reporting this to HR, but worked up the courage to do so in approximately May of 2022,” reads the lawsuit. “She was fired before she learned the outcome of HR’s investigation, or if any investigation was ever undertaken. Upon information and belief, Mayo remained a principal engineer at SpaceX until he left in 2023.”

Former employee Claire Mallon also revealed in the lawsuit that she “experienced several harassing incidents during her employment” at SpaceX, which was between 2017 and 2022. In one incident, she claims that she was invited to a sex party by a male colleague.

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“In 2019, Ms. Mallon reported a male colleague to HR for repeatedly bringing up sexually explicit topics with her, which made her uncomfortable,” reads the lawsuit. “For example, he invited her to a sex party, told her about his sexual practices, and inquired about her own sexual activities. HR claimed that it conducted an investigation but did not take any discernible action to correct her colleague’s behavior. SpaceX promoted this same male harasser to a senior role later that same year.

She also claims she was told by a male technician during her internship in 2016 that her department did not have any women working in it because “it was difficult to find women capable of thinking logically and that women were biologically incapable of being engineers.”

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The lawsuit overall accuses Musk of introducing “juvenile, grotesque sexual banter into the workplace” with the intention “of encouraging other employees to engage in similar conduct.”

The employees claim that they suffered “injury” and “emotional distress” and are seeking “compensatory damages in an amount to be proven at trial.”

The lawsuit comes amid a time when Musk is facing controversy over getting shareholder approval for his $51 billion pay package at Tesla, of which he also is CEO. In a tweet on June 12, Musk claimed that Tesla shareholders approved his pay package by “wide margins.”

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