Elon Musk
Sexual misconduct allegations resurface against Elon Musk, raising questions about his Tesla pay package vote. Wikimedia Commons

Eight former SpaceX employees filed a lawsuit against the company and CEO Elon Musk, raising concerns about a hostile work environment. The lawsuit alleges that Musk engaged in behaviour that objectified women and used lewd banter during their employment.

The lawsuit further alleges that the employees were subjected to wrongful termination in 2022 as retaliation for raising concerns about a hostile work environment.

According to the lawsuit filed in California, the employees documented their concerns in an open letter to SpaceX management. The suit alleges that Musk subsequently directed their terminations. The lawsuit also said that Musk fostered a work environment reminiscent of the Dark Ages, where women are objectified and evaluated according to their "bra size."

It further alleges that he bombards employees with vulgar sexual humour and threatens those who challenge this "Animal House" atmosphere with termination, implying they should find employment elsewhere if they are uncomfortable.

The lawsuit alleges that Musk and other senior leaders participated in a video screened at a company holiday party, which trivialized sexual harassment. According to the complaint, one scene depicts Brian Bjelde, the Vice President of Human Resources, in a scenario where an employee is instructed on administering a spanking in a supposedly "correct" manner.

"Filing this suit marks an important milestone in our quest for justice, for holding leadership accountable, and for implementing responsible changes in workplace policies," one of the plaintiffs, Paige Holland-Thielen, said in a statement.

Inappropriate Actions

The lawsuit alleges a range of workplace violations at SpaceX, including a hostile work environment, retaliation, gender discrimination, and wrongful termination. This contradicts a claim from a former Tesla employee, Cameron Sralla, who said they weren't given specific instructions from Musk and weren't pressured to work overtime.

On the other hand, a group of former SpaceX employees recently filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging they were retaliated against for speaking out about workplace concerns.

But that case has been stalled. SpaceX sued the National Labor Relations Board, arguing the agency's enforcement process is unconstitutional. In May, a court granted SpaceX a temporary block, preventing the NLRB from moving forward for now.

This legal battle mirrors a similar case from last year. The NLRB filed its first formal complaint against a Musk-led company, accusing it of firing a software engineer, Yao Yue, for trying to organize workers against a return-to-office policy.

Sexual Misconduct Claims Resurface Before Tesla Pay Package Vote

These developments regarding the NLRB case and labour practices are just one aspect of a broader situation at SpaceX. On Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal published a report outlining serious allegations against Elon Musk.

The report details accusations of inappropriate behaviour towards female SpaceX employees, including an alleged sexual relationship with a former intern. The Wall Street Journal cited unnamed sources familiar with the matter as saying the employee left the company in 2013 and then accused Musk of having asked her more than once to have his babies.

The Journal added that the woman reportedly declined the offer and that her working relationship with Musk deteriorated afterwards, with sources claiming Musk also denied her a raise.

However, WSJ also reported that the SpaceX employee received an exit package valued above $1 million when she left the company, according to a person familiar with the agreement.

These are not the first sexual harassment allegations against Elon Musk, and he has denied them previously. However, these renewed sexual misconduct allegations emerge at a critical juncture for Musk.

Tesla shareholders vote on his controversial $56 billion pay package tomorrow, potentially awarding him a significant wealth increase.