The Department of Justice is suing SpaceX, alleging it's been discriminating against asylees and refugees in its hiring practices.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday, asserts that the Elon Musk-led company violated the Immigration and Nationality Act between 2018 and 2022 by outright rejecting asylee and refugee job applicants.
"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," said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, in a statement.
It's a troubling development for the space company, alleging serious blindspots in its hiring practices — and tracing some directly back to Musk.
Lending credibility to the claims, it's also far from the first time a Musk-led business has been accused of discriminating against employees. A group of former Twitter employees, for instance, accused the company earlier this month of sex, race, and age discrimination.
And now, the Justice Department's lawsuit says that SpaceX made wrongful statements in at least 14 job postings, with the company claiming that it could only hire citizens and lawful permanent residents under "export control laws," despite there being "no such hiring restrictions," according to the statement.
The Justice Department's lawsuit also cites Musk directly, pointing to a 2016 video, in which the mercurial CEO wrongfully claimed that "a normal work visa is insufficient to work at SpaceX unless the company can obtain 'special permission from the Secretary of Defense or Secretary of State.'"
In a June 2020 tweet, Musk also claimed that US law requires anybody who wants to be hired by SpaceX to have "at least a green card."
In its lawsuit, however, the Department of Justice pointed out that "'US persons' working for US companies can access export-controlled items without authorization from the US government."
"A 'US person' under [International Traffic in Arms Regulations] and [Export Administration Regulations], includes a US citizen or national, a lawful permanent resident, a refugee, or an asylee," the complaint reads.
The department alleges SpaceX rejected any candidates who were listed as refugees or asylees, wrongfully claiming it wasn't possible to hire them under ITAR.
As a result, only one employee out of the roughly 10,000 people SpaceX hired from September 2018 to May 2022 was an asylee, the complaint alleges.
The Justice Department is now seeking "fair consideration and back pay for asylees and refugees who were deterred or denied employment at SpaceX due to the alleged discrimination."
"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," said Clarke in the statement.
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