SpaceX likely violated labor law in firing workers, experts say - The Verge
A group of SpaceX workers called for new restrictions on CEO Elon Musk’s Twitter activity — only to be fired shortly afterwards by company president Gwynne Shotwell.
On Friday, SpaceX fired a group of employees involved in crafting an open letter to corporate leaders that criticized CEO Elon Musk — and labor lawyers now say the firings may have violated US labor law. The letter circulated Thursday calling for stronger anti-harassment policies at SpaceX and a more restrained Twitter presence from Musk. At least five employees were fired shortly after the letter was published.
It’s unclear whether any of the fired employees will try to file suit with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). But if they do, lawyers say they will have a strong case. “To be covered, an action has to be concerted (certainly the case here) and it has to relate to working conditions,” says Charlotte Garden, a law professor at Seattle University who wrote about employee speech rights for the Economic Policy Institute earlier this year.
The most difficult part of retaliation cases is often proving that an employee really was fired in retaliation for speaking up, but SpaceX has made it easy to show the connection. In her note to employees after the firings, SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell made clear that the employees had been terminated specifically because of their involvement with the letter, which she characterized as “overreaching activism.” Even if SpaceX tried to deny it, the simple timing of the firings — coming less than 24 hours after the letter itself — makes the connection hard to ignore.
“This could very much be seen as retaliation for speaking up,” says Mary Inman, a whistleblower attorney at Constantine Cannon. “What does this say to workers? It basically says, we don’t want to hear from you.”
SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment.