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In response to a scathing letter about SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk, the company has fired at least five employees. However, some legal experts have predicted that SpaceX might have run afoul of the law and opened itself up for litigation.

When a letter condemning Musk’s actions and words surfaced, SpaceX went after the writer and sacked them, as admitted in the email sent to the staff by Gwynne Shotwell, the company president.

However, labor lawyers are pointing out that SpaceX’s action might have contravened the US labor laws. If the terminated workers decide to file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, NLRB, Charlotte Garden, a law professor at Seattle University, thinks they will have a strong case.

Shotwell’s letter made it clear the employees were sacked because of the letter they wrote. She even called their action “overreaching activism,” making it easy to link the termination to the letter. In this case, the former employees could argue they were fired in retaliation. The timing of the sacking would make it hard for SpaceX to argue otherwise, as it came less than 24 hours after the letter surfaced.

According to another attorney, Mary Inman, who has experience with whistleblowing, “This could very much be seen as retaliation for speaking up. What does this say to workers? It basically says, we don’t want to hear from you.”

If the ex-workers file a successful suit, SpaceX may be forced to reinstate them with back pay. Garden concluded while speaking with The Verge, “It strikes me as a letter that is mainly about working conditions. I think the NLRB would see it that way too.”

However, managers and supervisors are not covered by NLRA.

SpaceX had been entangled in multiple allegations of excusing or fostering a toxic working environment in the past.


The post SpaceX may have violated the law by sacking its workers over letter, according to experts appeared first on Drive Tesla.

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Well, they were fired for speaking up. However, the subject they were speaking up about is not protected speech. They were not claiming working conditions were unsafe, that they were being asked to break the law, or that they were being harassed, sexually or otherwise.

No, they were speaking up because they don't like Elon Musk saying controversial things or espousing conservative views. In other words, any article claiming SpaceX ran afoul of the law is just one more Elon Musk hit piece. They can't figure out how to slow down the disruption this man is causing in multiple industries!
 
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I have no doubt that this might become a series of lawsuits: Some to get the fired workers reinstated, and some to claim that Elon Musk is creating a hostile workplace, seeking either relief or an injunction to force him out. Those workers either will want to be "bought out" of their jobs, or their workplace aligned with the political philosophy they prefer. And they can get what they want, depending on how stubborn they are, and how much legal help they have.
 

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And that's called retaliation. hey spoke and weere fired for that.

NOZT for being bad workers, violating some safety rule, being late or missing shifts, etc.
If you read Gwynne's response, you'll see that they were fired for distracting all employees and using company resources to do so. They were fired PRECISELY for being bad workers.

Ironically, they became the thing that they were complaining about: a distraction.
 

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If you read Gwynne's response, you'll see that they were fired for distracting all employees and using company resources to do so. They were fired PRECISELY for being bad workers.

Ironically, they became the thing that they were complaining about: a distraction.
That's a ridiculous fig leaf. Management could always claim that worker complaints are "a distraction."

And which is the bigger distraction:a couple of emails, or people being fired over it?
 

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Well, they were fired for speaking up. However, the subject they were speaking up about is not protected speech. They were not claiming working conditions were unsafe, that they were being asked to break the law, or that they were being harassed, sexually or otherwise.

No, they were speaking up because they don't like Elon Musk saying controversial things or espousing conservative views. In other words, any article claiming SpaceX ran afoul of the law is just one more Elon Musk hit piece. They can't figure out how to slow down the disruption this man is causing in multiple industries!
I think that's debatable.

Some quotes from the letter:

"Individuals and groups of employees at SpaceX have spent significant effort beyond their technical scope to make the company a more inclusive space via conference recruiting, open forums, feedback to leadership, outreach, and more. However, we feel an unequal burden to carry this effort as the company has not applied appropriate urgency and resources to the problem in a manner consistent with our approach to critical path technical projects. To be clear: recent events are not isolated incidents; they are emblematic of a wider culture that underserves many of the people who enable SpaceX’s extraordinary accomplishments. As industry leaders, we bear unique responsibility to address this."

"SpaceX’s current systems and culture do not live up to its stated values, as many employees continue to experience unequal enforcement of our oft-repeated “No Asshole” and “Zero Tolerance” policies. This must change."

"Hold all leadership equally accountable to making SpaceX a great place to work for everyone. Apply a critical eye to issues that prevent employees from fully performing their jobs and meeting their potential, pursuing specific and enduring actions that are well resourced, transparent, and treated with the same rigor and urgency as establishing flight rationale after a hardware anomaly."

It's hard for me to read those quotes as being just about things Musk has said, although that's certainly discussed in other parts of the letter. I guess it's possible to see all of that as only saying that Musk can get away with stuff they can't, but that's not my reading of it.
 

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I think that's debatable.
Pay attention only to the framing and context. Don't spend too much time analyzing every word of the letter and let it rules-lawyer you into saying "there is no sentence in this entire document that crosses over the line, so there is no legal reason to fire anyone over it".

It's not the letter content itself. It's that the employees in question discussed among themselves, and decided that Elon Musk both needs to be "cancelled" over the harassment allegations, and also no longer reflects the political values that they believe. To most people these days, "cancellation" is caused by them believing the person's behavior is dangerous and irredeemable, and also to most people, those who spout political views they don't believe in are also dangerous and irredeemable. If the discussion gets deep enough, they may have even told themselves that Elon Musk has aligned himself with nazis and insurgents (that's not as far fetched as you'd think in these kind of discussions) and is a racist and mysoginist, and none of those things are welcome at SpaceX.

So they wrote a letter to management demanding that SpaceX separate themselves from that. Not just suggesting that it should, but demanding that it must. The implied threat being that "either he goes, or we go".

And here we are analyzing it, but through our own colored glasses of whatever our political beliefs are. And maybe some of us feel that Elon Musk has been aligning himself with nazis and insurgents, and has been a mysoginist, and should step aside at SpaceX, because if he doesn't align with our beliefs, then maybe those employees are right and Musk is in the wrong.

But...what I'm actually saying is, ignore the 3 paragraphs above entirely. They're all irrelevant. Because the real issue, and the reason they were fired, is because a small number of employees were trying to force the direction of a company with hundreds of employees in the name of "doing the right thing", and none of the other employees had any say in it. Those people just assumed because they're in California, everyone agrees with them. That's why Gwynn Shotwell fired the people who wrote the letter.
 
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What State were the employees working in when they were fired? I seem to have trouble finding out the specific information as to were their jobs were officially and where they were physically? Assuming it is California, California is an "at-will State". A number of States have employment at will, meaning anyone can be fired for nearly anything aside from sex, racial bias etc. I was a senior corporate person (not a lawyer, not giving legal advice) for years and depending on the State is how this may be decided. Federal law does not protect all types of speech (1st Amendment does not apply) and many States permit an employer can fire anyone without cause.

However, employees even in at-will States cannot be fired in retaliation for speaking out against unsafe working conditions. If they can prove Elon's twitter time and tweets detract from their safety etc., they may have a good reason.
 

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Yes, in "at will" states (which is almost all of them), one can be terminated for no reason at all.

However they cannot be terminated for the wrong reason without severe legal repercussions.
( IANAL, I did not sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night. )
 

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However they cannot be terminated for the wrong reason without severe legal repercussions.
Sending out a company-wide email attacking the CEO of the company is generally not considered a "wrong" reason.
 

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If you read Gwynne's response, you'll see that they were fired for distracting all employees and using company resources to do so. They were fired PRECISELY for being bad workers.

Ironically, they became the thing that they were complaining about: a distraction.
Therein lies the problem. WERE they bad workers up until the letter? If they have a history of starting up trouble at the company, I can see this being "the straw that broke the camel's back" as a defense. If they have a status of doing exemplary work, but are loud and obnoxious, I don't think that'd qualify SpaceX to fire them and those terminated employees are going to get PAID.
 
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Sending out a company-wide email attacking the CEO of the company is generally not considered a "wrong" reason.
Guess that's where views will differ. If they were terminated ONLY for sending that letter, I'd consider it a wrong reason. Reading the bits of the letter I've seen, they weren't deragatory or mean spirited. Even comments of "he goes or we go" should be responded to with a "here's the door, bye".

I've spoken with managers over the past few decades and when I'm unhappy and seriously contemplating finding another job I mention that to them directly. Most made adjustments to make a better working environment, one told me to go ahead and find another job, ZERO just fired me on the spot!
 

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I've spoken with managers over the past few decades and when I'm unhappy and seriously contemplating finding another job I mention that to them directly.
You mean you didn't send out an email to everyone at the company you work for explaining why you believe the leadership of the company needs to leave?
 

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You mean you didn't send out an email to everyone at the company you work for explaining why you believe the leadership of the company needs to leave?
I’ve received lots of corporate wide emails that were disruptive over my career (some of which required corporate town halls so they get addressed). Are you telling me the issue isn’t that the email was disruptive, but that Elon’s feelings were hurt?

I don’t know, I just figured an executive team should be a bit more than thin skinned when being criticized.

At the end of the day, if the corporate by-laws explicitly state that executives can not be disparaged, then they were rightfully terminated. Otherwise, the “disruption” excuse doesn’t hold up well.
 
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You mean you didn't send out an email to everyone at the company you work for explaining why you believe the leadership of the company needs to leave?
The letter didn't say that. It said "SpaceX must swiftly and explicitly separate itself from Elon’s personal brand."

It also said "Hold all leadership equally accountable to making SpaceX a great place to work for everyone. Apply a critical eye to issues that prevent employees from fully performing their jobs and meeting their potential, pursuing specific and enduring actions that are well resourced, transparent, and treated with the same rigor and urgency as establishing flight rationale after a hardware anomaly."

And that "SpaceX must establish safe avenues for reporting and uphold clear repercussions for all unacceptable behavior, whether from the CEO or an employee starting their first day."

All of that only adds up to "the leadership of the company needs to leave" if we assume that Musk is incapable of changing his behavior. Making that assumption about Musk would be a far more disparaging characterization than anything actually in the letter.
 

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The letter crossed the corporate line in many ways. Even if it only crossed the line in one specific instance, that would have been sufficient to fire all co-signers. But SpaceX did not fire all signers, they only fired those who actively promoted the letter and tried to coerce other employees into signing it while at work. The letter, in fact, had nothing to do with employee safety and everything to do with trying to reduce Elon's right to express himself freely.

Where I think the letter crossed the line into fantasy land is when it cited the recent sexual harassment allegations as if they actually believed Elon would offer to buy an employee a horse for sexual favors! Use your heads people, Elon does not need to turn to employees for sexual favors and it would violate many of his personal principles to buy an employee a horse (not to mention it's pretty difficult to hide a horse). This story was fabricated by a young, inexperienced employee (or her acquaintance who may have fabricated the juiciest parts of the story herself) who saw big dollar signs and was paid to go away. Employees citing unsubstantiated and unbelievable allegations to bolster their case, have demonstrated extremely poor judgement and deserve to be terminated. It's disgusting actually. Sexual harassment and bribing for sexual favors has never been a known operating mode of Elon Musk, he has no history of that, and it makes no sense he would have done it once in isolation. That is not how sexual harassers operate.

Anyone who feels bad for people actively soliciting co-signers for such trash don't understand the high standards SpaceX sets for employment. They only hire a small fraction of the people who qualify to apply and they regularly let the ones with the poorest judgement go.
 

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I’ve received lots of corporate wide emails that were disruptive over my career (some of which required corporate town halls so they get addressed). Are you telling me the issue isn’t that the email was disruptive, but that Elon’s feelings were hurt?
Go ahead and send out a company-wide email saying that the company you work for needs to get rid of its president based on (unsubstantiated) claims of sexual harrasment, and see how long it takes HR to escort you out of the building.

Seriously, do you think you could pull this sort of stunt at your current company and not get sacked for it? I realize that there are some companies that will let their employees get away with taking jabs at leadership - mostly based in silicon valley. But even those companies haven't been tested to this degree.
 

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Go ahead and send out a company-wide email saying that the company you work for needs to get rid of its president based on (unsubstantiated) claims of sexual harrasment, and see how long it takes HR to escort you out of the building.

Seriously, do you think you could pull this sort of stunt at your current company and not get sacked for it? I realize that there are some companies that will let their employees get away with taking jabs at leadership - mostly based in silicon valley. But even those companies haven't been tested to this degree.
I've been with my current employer for 12+ years now and can honestly say that if I were to send a letter like the one sent at SpaceX, I wouldn't feel threatened of termination the very next day. That's not to say I wouldn't be fired eventually, but the executives at my company take the open door and transparency policies to heart. We're open to discuss things freely, but maybe I just work for a "woke" company 🤷‍♂️
 
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