US sues SpaceX for alleged hiring discrimination against refugees and others


The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a lawsuit against SpaceX, the rocket company founded and run by Elon Musk, for allegedly discriminating against refugees and people seeking or granted asylum in its hiring practices. The lawsuit claims that SpaceX violated the anti-discrimination provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by refusing to hire or consider applicants who were not US citizens or lawful permanent residents.


SpaceX’s hiring policy under scrutiny

According to the complaint, filed in an administrative court within the DOJ, SpaceX wrongly claimed that federal export control laws barred it from hiring anyone but US citizens and permanent residents. As a result, it discouraged refugees and asylum seekers and grantees from applying for jobs at the company. The complaint cites several examples of applicants who were rejected or deterred by SpaceX because of their immigration status, even though they were legally authorized to work in the US.

The complaint also alleges that SpaceX failed to cooperate with the DOJ’s investigation into its hiring practices, which began in 2018. The DOJ says that SpaceX refused to provide relevant documents and information, such as its export control policies and procedures, its employee roster, and its job postings. The DOJ says that it repeatedly tried to obtain voluntary compliance from SpaceX, but the company did not comply.

Export control laws and U.S. persons

Export control laws are federal regulations that restrict the export of certain technologies, weapons, information, and software to specific foreign countries and entities for national security and foreign policy reasons. They also limit the sharing or release of such items and information to “U.S. persons”, which include not only US citizens, but also permanent US residents, refugees, and those seeking or granted asylum.

The DOJ argues that SpaceX’s hiring policy is not justified by export control laws, as the company did not demonstrate that the positions in question required access to export-controlled items or information. The DOJ also notes that other companies in the aerospace industry have hired refugees and asylum seekers without violating export control laws.

The positions in question included both ones requiring advanced degrees and others such as welders, cooks, and crane operators at the company. The DOJ says that SpaceX’s hiring policy had a disparate impact on refugees and asylum seekers, who are often fleeing persecution and violence in their home countries.

The U.S. seeks remedies and penalties

The DOJ is seeking “fair consideration and back pay” for people who were deterred from or denied employment at SpaceX due to the company’s alleged discrimination, in addition to undetermined civil penalties. The DOJ also wants SpaceX to stop discriminating against refugees and asylum seekers in its hiring practices, and to implement policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the INA.

SpaceX, which is based in Hawthorne, California, did not reply to a request for comment. The company is known for its ambitious and innovative projects, such as launching reusable rockets, sending astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), and developing a Starlink satellite internet service. The company is also preparing for a historic all-civilian mission to orbit the Earth in September 2023.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *