The US justice department on Thursday filed a lawsuit against the billionaire Elon Musk’s rocket company SpaceX for alleged hiring discrimination against refugees and asylum seekers.
SpaceX “routinely discouraged asylees and refugees from applying and refused to hire or consider them, because of their citizenship status” from at least September 2018 to May 2022, according to the justice department. This civil suit comes more than two years after the justice department revealed in court filings that it was investigating the space exploration company following a complaint that it discriminated against non-US citizens during hiring.
“Our investigation found that SpaceX failed to fairly consider or hire asylees and refugees because of their citizenship status and imposed what amounted to a ban on their hire regardless of their qualification, in violation of federal law,” the Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, of the justice department’s civil rights division, said in a statement.
“Our investigation also found that SpaceX recruiters and high-level officials took actions that actively discouraged asylees and refugees from seeking work opportunities at the company,” Clarke said in the press release, later remarking: “Through this lawsuit we will hold SpaceX accountable for its illegal employment practices and seek relief that allows asylees and refugees to fairly compete for job opportunities and contribute their talents to SpaceX’s workforce. Space X did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
As part of its alleged discrimination against non-US citizens, SpaceX falsely invoked “export control laws” in claiming it could only hire citizens and green card holders. But, the justice department insists, these export control laws do not mandate such restrictions.
Under export control laws, SpaceX and other companies can hire asylees and refugees just as they do US citizens and green card holders, the justice department said. The alleged discrimination unfolded at multiple levels during hiring.
The company allegedly discouraged refugees and aslyees from seeking out open positions through “public announcements, job applications and other online recruiting communications that excluded asylees and refugees”, officials claimed. The company also “failed” to fairly weigh job applications from refugees and asylees.
SpaceX “refused” to hire qualified refugees and asylees “because of their citizenship status”. Over the four-year period cited in the suit, SpaceX allegedly only hired US citizens and green card holders.
The jobs from which refugee and aslyee applicants were allegedly excluded were not only positions requiring higher education. In addition to positions in software and rocket engineering, for example, the jobs included welding, cooking and dish-washing.
The justice department wants SpaceX to fairly consider and provide back pay for refugees and asylum seekers who were wrongly denied work because of this alleged discrimination. Officials also want civil penalties imposed and policy changes to ensure compliance
This lawsuit is not the first time one of Musk’s companies has been accused of discriminatory behavior. A group of former employees of the social media website formerly known as Twitter (now X), filed suit earlier this month alleging that Musk engaged in gender, age and racial discrimination, per Insider.
“The fact that more women than men were laid off is not surprising given Musk’s history of making sexist, demeaning, and hostile comments against women,” the suit reportedly said.
The civil complaint referred to one of Musk’s missives as evidence of this alleged discrimination. “Testosterone rocks ngl,” Musk wrote, in response to an article on James Cameron’s comments on the hormone being a toxic substance men needed to excise.
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