SpaceX Employees Criticized Musk. Then Came the Firings

COO Gwynne Shotwell said letter requesting action from leaders was 'overreaching activism'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 17, 2022 8:28 AM CDT
SpaceX Employees Criticized Musk. Then Came the Firings
Elon Musk attends The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute benefit gala celebrating the opening of the "In America: An Anthology of Fashion" exhibition on May 2, 2022, in New York.   (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

SpaceX fired at least five workers who helped write and share an open letter criticizing CEO Elon Musk on Thursday, per Reuters. The letter—which called Musk's public behavior "a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment" and also called out his "harmful Twitter behavior"—began circulating Wednesday in an internal SpaceX Microsoft Teams channel with more than 2,600 employees, per the Verge. The company needs to "hold all leadership equally accountable" for bad behavior, "clearly define what exactly is intended by SpaceX's 'no-asshole' and 'zero tolerance' policies and enforce them consistently," and "swiftly and explicitly separate itself from Elon's personal brand," it said.

In an internal email obtained by the New York Times, SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell said the company investigated and "terminated a number of employees involved." "The letter, solicitations and general process made employees feel uncomfortable, intimidated, and bullied, and/or angry because the letter pressured them to sign onto something that did not reflect their views," Shotwell wrote. "We have too much critical work to accomplish and no need for this kind of overreaching activism." However, the Verge reports that many of more than 100 comments it viewed on the letter indicated support for the demands.

Some commenters said they were also embarrassed by Musk's behavior, which includes recent crude tweets in reference to Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin. Others said the company should do better in addressing sexual harassment complaints. After Insider reported in May that SpaceX paid $250,000 to a former flight attendant on its corporate jet fleet who alleged Musk exposed himself to her and asked for a sexual massage, Shotwell told employees that she believed the allegations to be false "because I have worked closely with him for 20 years and never seen nor heard anything resembling these allegations," per the Verge. Musk also joked about the allegation in a tweet. (More SpaceX stories.)

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