SpaceX fires five people over letter criticizing Elon Musk

(Reuters) — private rocket company SpaceX fired at least five employees after discovering they had written and distributed a letter criticizing the founder Elon Musk and urging executives to make the company culture more inclusive, said two people familiar with the matter.

SpaceX did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

The New York Times reported Thursday that SpaceX had fired employees related to the letter, citing three employees with knowledge of the situation. It had not detailed the number of employees who had been laid off.

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell sent an email saying the company had investigated and “terminated several employees related” to the letter, according to The New York Times.

The newspaper said Shotwell’s email said the employees implicated in the letter’s release had been fired for making other employees feel “uncomfortable, intimidated and harassed, and/or angry that the letter pressured them to sign something they It didn’t reflect their opinions.”

Reuters could not independently confirm that report.

The SpaceX letter, titled “an open letter to SpaceX executives” seen by Reuters, called Musk a “distraction and embarrassment” to the company he founded.

In a list of three demands, it said “SpaceX must quickly and explicitly distance itself from Elon’s personal brand,” “hold all leaders equally accountable for making SpaceX a great place to work for everyone,” and “define and respond to uniformly to all forms of unacceptable behavior.

Musk, who is also CEO of electric-car maker Tesla Inc., has made headlines and starred in late-night stand-up comedy in recent months, not least for his bid to take over Twitter, his criticism of Democrats and a alleged sexual harassment allegation, which Musk denied in a Twitter message.

The SpaceX open letter, first reported by The Verge, was drafted by SpaceX employees in recent weeks and shared as an attachment in an internal chat of the “Morale Boosters” group that brings together thousands of employees, one person said. person familiar with the matter, asking to remain anonymous.

Musk, also the company’s chief engineer, has been considered a central figure in many of SpaceX’s high-profile successes, such as pioneering the reuse of orbital booster rockets and bringing back routine human spaceflight from US soil. after a nine-year break.

Shotwell, who runs much of the company’s day-to-day business, has said he will enforce SpaceX’s “zero tolerance” rules against harassment in its workforce.

SpaceX, founded by Musk in 2002, has played a central role in the US space program, becoming the only company capable of launching NASA astronauts into space from US soil and planning to send humans to the moon for the space agency in the United States. next decade.

SpaceX is also one of two companies the Pentagon relies on to launch most of America’s military and spy satellites into space.

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SpaceX fires five people over letter criticizing Elon Musk