A Falcon 9 rocket is launched in front of Space Exploration Technologies Corp. headquarters on Jan. 28, 2021. (SpaceX) in Hawthorne, California.
Patrick T Fallon | AFP | Getty Images
The US Department of Justice on Thursday sued SpaceX, alleging that Elon Musk’s space company discriminated against refugees and people granted asylum in the US in its hiring practices
The lawsuit alleges that between 2018 and 2022 SpaceX “falsely alleged” that export control laws restricted hiring of employees to US citizens and lawful permanent residents.
The DOJ has been investigating SpaceX since June 2020, when the department’s Immigration and Labor Rights Division received a complaint of workplace discrimination from a non-US citizen.
“Our investigation found that SpaceX failed to adequately consider or hire asylum seekers and refugees based on their citizenship status and imposed a ban on their hiring regardless of qualification, in violation of federal law,” said Kristen Clarke, Assistant Attorney General for SpaceX The Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice said in a statement.
Clarke added that the Justice Department’s investigation found that “SpaceX recruiters and senior officials took action that actively discouraged asylum seekers and refugees from seeking work opportunities at the company.”
According to data provided by SpaceX, the Justice Department said that over a period of nearly four years and out of more than 10,000 hires, the company “hired only one person who was an asylum seeker and was identified as such on his or her application.”
This lone shot came about four months after the Justice Department notified SpaceX of its investigation.
SpaceX did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment. The lawsuit was filed with the Executive Office for Immigration Review, a division of the DOJ that decides on immigration cases.
The Justice Department’s lawsuit seeks “fair consideration and back pay for asylum seekers and refugees who have been deterred or denied employment at SpaceX because of alleged discrimination,” as well as civil penalties and policy changes by the company.
In 2021, the Department of Justice’s Immigration and Labor Rights Division alleged that SpaceX blocked a subpoena related to its investigation and requested a court order that SpaceX comply with its request for documents related to the company’s hiring policy. SpaceX had filed a motion in an administrative court of the US Department of Justice to dismiss the subpoena on the grounds that it exceeded the scope of the IER’s authority, but that motion was denied.
IER opened its investigation after a man named Fabian Hutter complained that SpaceX discriminated against him in March 2020 when asked about his citizenship status during an interview for a position as a technical strategy officer.
Hutter is not a US citizen, but he is a “lawful permanent resident,” according to a document SpaceX filed in response to a 2021 Justice Department subpoena. [U.S.] Residents with dual citizenship from Austria and Canada.”
When contacted by CNBC, Hutter declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Read the DOJ’s lawsuit below:
– CNBC’s Dan Mangan contributed to this report.
Correction: This story has been updated to correct that the US Department of Justice has sued SpaceX, alleging the company discriminated against refugees and people granted asylum in the US in its hiring practices. In a previous version, the nature of the alleged violation was misrepresented.
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