Justice Department sues Elon Musk’s SpaceX for hiring discrimination

The Justice Department sued Elon Musk’s company SpaceX for allegedly discriminating against asylum-seekers and refugees in its hiring practices.

The lawsuit, filed on 23 August, states that from at least September 2018 to at least May 2022, SpaceX “discriminated against asylees and refugees throughout its hiring process, including during recruiting, screening, and selection” which is in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

As laid out in the Justice Department’s press release, under the INA, employers cannot discriminate against asylees and refugees in hiring, unless the employer is mandated to by a law or regulation. However, in the case of SpaceX, no order “permitted SpaceX to engage in the widespread discrimination against asylees or refugees that the department’s investigation found.”

The Independent has reached out to SpaceX for comment.

“Because of their citizenship status, asylees and refugees had virtually no chance of being fairly considered for or hired for a job at SpaceX,” the filing states.

The Justice Department also said that statements from SpaceX officials – including its CEO, Mr Musk – discouraged these individuals from applying to work at the company “by wrongly stating that SpaceX can only hire US citizens and lawful permanent residents.”

For those who did apply for jobs at the company, SpaceX refused to hire them based on their citizenship status, the DOJ alleged.

“SpaceX’s discriminatory hiring practices were routine, widespread, and longstanding, and harmed asylees and refugees,” the suit stated.

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in the department’s press release: “Asylees and refugees have overcome many obstacles in their lives, and unlawful employment discrimination based on their citizenship status should not be one of them.”

She added, “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.”

The Justice Department requested that the assigned administrative law judge order SpaceX “to cease and desist from the illegal practices” described in the complaint, and to pay an appropriate civil penalty.

The department also requested that SpaceX be ordered to provide fair consideration to each applicant who identified as an asylum-seeker or a refugee but was improperly screened out, rejected, or those who were deterred from applying, as well as to hire qualified applicants who were “victims” of the alleged discriminatory practices.

On top of these requests, the department asked the judge to order the company to “pay back pay, including interest, and all other relief available to each individual discriminated against who was qualified and who is found to have suffered uncompensated lost wages due to denied or delayed employment as a result of the discriminatory practices alleged in this Complaint.”