The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has taken legal action against SpaceX, filing a complaint alleging the unlawful termination of eight employees involved in criticizing Elon Musk's social media behavior. The complaint asserts that SpaceX violated labor laws by firing workers engaged in "protected concerted activity at work" and interrogating at least one employee about their involvement.
Background of the Complaint
The NLRB claims that SpaceX not only terminated employees for engaging in protected activity but also created an "impression of surveillance" by showing screenshots of a Signal group chat, raising concerns about privacy. The employees had written an open letter in mid-2022 addressing Musk's behavior on X, particularly crude jokes related to sexual misconduct accusations settled by SpaceX for $250,000.
The letter called for accountability from the company's leadership regarding Musk's harmful Twitter behavior and urged condemnation of such actions. Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX President, reportedly reprimanded the employees shortly after the letter's circulation, instructing them to cease communication on employee channels. Subsequently, five employees were fired the next day, and four more were terminated over July and August.
Legal Proceedings and Employee Perspective
The case is scheduled to be heard by an administrative judge on March 5, with the possibility of a settlement before the hearing. If the NLRB determines labor law violations, SpaceX may be required to reinstate employees and provide appropriate backpay. However, the company has the option to appeal the decision to the board and subsequently to a federal court.
Elon Musk has a history of disputes with the NLRB through his other companies, including X. The NLRB previously accused X of unlawfully firing an employee opposing Musk's return-to-office policy. Tesla, another Musk-led company, has faced NLRB complaints, including allegations of illegal terminations in response to union activity.