June 25, 2024

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The Department of Justice is suing SpaceX, alleging employment discrimination against refugees and asylum seekers

The Department of Justice is suing SpaceX, alleging employment discrimination against refugees and asylum seekers

  • The US Department of Justice sued SpaceX on Thursday, alleging that the space company owned by Elon Musk discriminated against refugees and asylum seekers in its hiring practices.
  • The lawsuit says that between 2018 and 2022, SpaceX “wrongly claimed” that export control laws limited its employment to US citizens and legal permanent residents.
  • The Department of Justice has been investigating SpaceX since June 2020, when the department’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Division received a complaint of employment discrimination from a non-US citizen.

A Falcon 9 rocket is displayed outside the headquarters of Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) on January 28, 2021 in Hawthorne, California.

Patrick T Fallon | AFP | Getty Images

The US Department of Justice sued SpaceX on Thursday, alleging that the space company owned by Elon Musk discriminated against refugees and asylum seekers in its hiring practices.

The lawsuit says that between 2018 and 2022, SpaceX “wrongly claimed” that export control laws limited its employment to US citizens and lawful permanent residents.

The Department of Justice has been investigating SpaceX since June 2020, when the department’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Division received a complaint of employment discrimination from a non-US citizen.

“Our investigation found that SpaceX failed to fairly consider or hire asylum seekers and refugees based on their citizenship status and amounted to a ban on hiring them regardless of their qualifications, in violation of federal law,” said Christine Clark, Assistant United States Attorney General. The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement.

Clark added that the Justice Department’s investigation found that “SpaceX’s high-ranking recruiters and officials took actions that discouraged asylum seekers and refugees from seeking employment with the company.”

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SpaceX did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on the lawsuit, which was filed by the Justice Department.

The lawsuit, filed by the Department of Justice, seeks to win “fair consideration and back pay for asylum seekers and refugees who have been deterred or denied employment at SpaceX due to alleged discrimination,” as well as civil penalties and policy changes from the company.

In 2021, the Justice Department’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Division alleged that SpaceX was obstructing a subpoena related to its investigation and sought a judge’s order that SpaceX comply with its request for documents related to how the company was hired. SpaceX petitioned the Department of Justice’s Administrative Court to deny the subpoena on the grounds that it was beyond the scope of the IER’s authority, but that petition was denied.

The IER opened its investigation after a man named Fabian Hutter complained that SpaceX discriminated against him in March 2020 when he was asked about his citizenship status during a job interview for a technical strategy associate position.

Fabian Huter, whose complaint about SpaceX prompted the Justice Department to open a discrimination investigation, did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment. Hutter alleged that the company discriminated against him when he was asked about his citizenship status in March 2020 during a job interview for the position of associate in technical strategy. Hutter is not a US citizen, but according to a document SpaceX provided in response to the DOJ subpoena in 2021, he is a “lawful permanent citizen.” [U.S.] A resident with dual citizenship of Austria and Canada.

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Read the lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice below.

— CNBC’s Dan Mangan contributed to this report.