Elon Musk’s SpaceX was hit with a lawsuit from the Department of Justice on Thursday for allegedly refusing to hire refugees and those granted asylum.
In a press release, the DOJ accused the spacecraft technology company of “discriminating against asylees and refugees in hiring.”
“From at least September 2018 to May 2022, SpaceX routinely discouraged asylees and refugees from applying and refused to hire or consider them, because of their citizenship status, in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act,” the DOJ stated.
According to the Justice Department, SpaceX incorrectly claimed it could hire only United States citizens and lawful permanent residents due to “export control laws.” However, the DOJ stated that the regulation has no such hiring restrictions.
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said, “Our investigation found that SpaceX failed to fairly consider or hire asylees and refugees because of their citizenship status and imposed what amounted to a ban on their hire regardless of their qualification, in violation of federal law.”
“Our investigation also found that SpaceX recruiters and high-level officials took actions that actively discouraged asylees and refugees from seeking work opportunities at the company,” Clarke continued. “Asylees and refugees have overcome many obstacles in their lives, and unlawful employment discrimination based on their citizenship status should not be one of them. Through this lawsuit we will hold SpaceX accountable for its illegal employment practices and seek relief that allows asylees and refugees to fairly compete for job opportunities and contribute their talents to SpaceX’s workforce.”
The investigation alleged that SpaceX “discouraged” noncitizens from applying “through public announcements, job applications and other online recruiting communications that excluded asylees and refugees.”
The company also “failed to fairly consider” or hire other qualified applicants based on their citizenship status, the DOJ claimed.
“SpaceX hired only U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, from September 2018 to September 2020,” it added.
According to the DOJ’s press release, refugees and migrants who enter the U.S. undergo a “thorough vetting” process by the federal government.
The DOJ is seeking “fair consideration and back pay” for those allegedly “deterred or denied employment” based on citizenship status. It is also seeking civil penalties.
An investigation into SpaceX’s hiring practices was launched after the DOJ was contacted by a noncitizen who allegedly faced discriminatory hiring practices. The department is asking refugees and asylees who believe SpaceX discriminated against them to contact its Civil Rights Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section.
SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment from CNBC.
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