US Sues SpaceX, Which Elon Musk Says Is 'Insane'

Department of Justice alleges hiring discrimination
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 26, 2023 6:30 AM CDT
US Sues SpaceX for Not Hiring Refugees
FILE - The U.S. Department of Justice logo is seen on a podium following a news conference in the office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland in Baltimore, March 1, 2017.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

The US Department of Justice on Thursday sued SpaceX, the rocket company founded and run by Elon Musk, for alleged hiring discrimination against refugees and people granted asylum, the AP reports. The complaint, filed in an administrative court within the department, asserts that SpaceX wrongly claimed that federal export control laws barred it from hiring anyone but US citizens and permanent residents. As a result, it discouraged refugees and asylum grantees from applying for jobs at the company, according to the complaint. The US is seeking "fair consideration and back pay" for people who were deterred from or denied employment at SpaceX due to the company's alleged discrimination, in addition to undetermined civil penalties.

Export controls typically aim to protect US national security and to further national trade objectives. They bar the shipment of specific technologies, weapons, information and software to specific non-US nations and also limit the sharing or release of such items and information to "US persons." But the Justice Department noted that the term includes not only US citizens, but also permanent US residents, refugees, and those granted asylum. The department charged that SpaceX also refused to "fairly" consider applications from this group of people or to hire them. The positions in question included both ones requiring advanced degrees and others such as welders, cooks and crane operators at the company.

On X, the social network that used to be Twitter before Musk bought it and renamed it, Musk replied to a comment about the situation: "SpaceX was told repeatedly that hiring anyone who was not a permanent resident of the United States would violate international arms trafficking law, which would be a criminal offense. We couldn't even hire Canadian citizens, despite Canada being part of NORAD! This is yet another case of weaponization of the DOJ for political purposes." In another tweet, he called the lawsuit "insane." (Read more SpaceX stories.)

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