One of Elon Musk’s companies is facing a federal lawsuit over its alleged discrimination of refugees and asylum seekers in its hiring practices.
On Thursday, the Department of Justice announced that they have filed a lawsuit against SpaceX, the satellite and rocket company that Musk owns. In a statement, DOJ officials said:
“The lawsuit alleges that, from at least September 2018 to May 2022, SpaceX routinely discouraged asylees and refugees from applying and refused to hire or consider them, because of their citizenship status, in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
“In job postings and public statements over several years, SpaceX wrongly claimed that under federal regulations known as ‘export control laws,’ SpaceX could hire only U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, sometimes referred to as ‘green card holders.’”
The lawsuit states that federal laws prohibit any foreign person from gaining access to any items that are export controlled before they first get approval from either the Department of Commerce or State Department. The laws do permit any U.S. individual – whether a resident, citizen, asylum seeker or refugee – to do so.
According to the lawsuit:
“[Immigrants] had virtually no chance of being fairly considered or hired for a job at SpaceX. … [The company’s] hiring practices were routine, widespread, and longstanding, and harmed asylees and refugees.”
In its suit, the DOJ pointed to various online posts Musk has made that show that he makes “discriminatory public statements” that would discourage refugees or asylum seekers from even applying for a job with his company.
One such instance the DOJ referred to was a post Musk made in June of 2020 on X, which at the time was then called Twitter. Musk now owns that company, but didn’t when the post was made.
In that post, Musk wrote to the 36 million followers he had at a time:
“U.S. law requires at least a green card to be hired at SpaceX, as rockets are advanced weapons technology.”
Way back in September of 2016, Musk also claimed while attending an international conference that all SpaceX hires have to have “special permission from the Secretary of Defense or Secretary of State” so that they can be in compliance with International Traffic in Arms Regulations.
The lawsuit further states that many recruiters have used that law in question to turn away applicants to SpaceX. And, the DOJ further said that Musk’s company only hired one person who was an asylum seeker from 2018 through 2022 – and that was four months after the company first was being investigated by the DOJ.
A major issue with the practice, if proven true in court, is that NASA and other federal agencies have awarded SpaceX billions in funds in the form of contracts for technologies related to satellites and communications.
Officials from SpaceX haven’t yet responded to requests for comments in regard to this lawsuit from the DOJ.
Musk is facing other legal threats from the federal government, too, in relation to his work with his social media company X and his electric car company Tesla.