Former SpaceX employees allege Elon Musk and execs appeared in a video joking about spanking coworkers

Elon Musk
Elon Musk.Beata Zawrzel/Getty Images
  • Eight former SpaceX employees are suing the company and Elon Musk.

  • They say they were fired after speaking up about a hostile work environment.

  • The lawsuit alleges Musk treated women as "sexual objects" and used lewd banter.

Eight former SpaceX employees have sued the company and its CEO, Elon Musk, alleging they were wrongfully fired for speaking out against a hostile work environment in 2022.

The suit, filed in California, notes employees wrote an open letter to SpaceX management about their concerns. Musk then personally ordered their terminations, the suit alleges.

The complaint alleges Musk "runs his company in the dark ages — treating women as sexual objects to be evaluated on their bra size, bombarding the workplace with lewd sexual banter, and offering the reprise to those who challenge the 'Animal House' environment that if they don't like it they can seek employment elsewhere."

The lawsuit accuses Musk and other upper management of appearing in a video that made light of sexual misconduct, which was screened at an employee holiday party.

One scene shows VP of human resources Brian Bjelde "having an employee demonstrate how to spank him in the 'correct' manner," according to the suit.

SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

"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.

The lawsuit accuses SpaceX of creating a hostile work environment, retaliation, failure to prevent harassment, gender discrimination, whistleblower retaliation, and wrongful termination.

The same group of former SpaceX employee previously filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board alleging they were targeted for retaliation.

But that case has been tied up after SpaceX sued the agency and said its enforcement processes violated the US Constitution. In May, an appeals court granted Musk's firm a temporary block that keeps the NLRB from pursuing its case.

Separately, the Wall Street Journal published a report on Wednesday alleging Musk had inappropriate interactions with female SpaceX employees, including a sexual relationship with a former intern.

The refreshed allegations of sexual misconduct come at a complicated time for Musk. On Thursday, Tesla shareholders will vote on Musk's contentious $55 billion pay package, potentially handing the billionaire a massive boost in wealth.

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