SpaceX Accused of Discrimination

The Department of Justice filed a complaint against SpaceX on Aug. 24, accusing the company owned by Elon Musk of violating federal law by refusing to accept applications from asylum recipients and refugees.

According to the complaint filed with a unit of the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, SpaceX refused applications from 2018-2022 from asylum recipients and refugees.

According to the 13-page complaint, SpaceX stated that due to the sensitive rocket technology used by SpaceX as well as U.S. export control laws meant that only those who have green cards or who are U.S. citizens are allowed to work at SpaceX.

The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division lawyers state that the interpretation of those laws by SpaceX was inaccurate, therefore the company illegally discriminated against those living in the United States who had been granted refugee or asylum recipient status legally.

Though the complaint does not specifically name Musk, it states that the CEO of SpaceX publicly advanced an incorrect claim that only U.S. citizens or green card holders could work for the company. In 2016, Musk stated during an international space conference that the company is “legally prevented from hiring anyone” who does not have a green card. In 2020, Musk wrote that “rockets are considered advanced weapons technology” and therefore laws require employees of SpaceX to have a green card.

According to the complaint, SpaceX hired for positions such as baristas and cooks that had no connection to sensitive technology. It’s not clear if those who applied for those positions were also turned away for not having a green card.

The Department of Justice began the investigation into SpaceX in 2020 after a non-citizen filed a complaint of employment discrimination with the Immigrant and Employee Rights Section of the Department of Justice.

The Department of Justice is requesting an administrative law judge order the company to stop its alleged practice of illegal hiring, pay a civil penalty of an unspecified amount, considering hiring applicants who had been affected by the policy as well as provide back pay to those impacted.

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