DOJ Sues SpaceX for Alleged Refugee Discrimination

doj sues spacex for alleged refugee discrimination.jpg Science

In a significant development that shines a spotlight on the hiring practices of Elon Musk’s rocket company, SpaceX, the Justice Department’s civil rights division has initiated a lawsuit against the firm. The lawsuit accuses SpaceX of illegally discriminating against asylees and refugees during its recruitment, screening, and hiring processes, in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act. This alleged discrimination was not a one-off incident; rather, it was described as "routine, widespread, and longstanding," causing significant harm to asylees and refugees seeking employment within the company.

The lawsuit further alleges that SpaceX actively discouraged asylees and refugees from applying for positions by falsely stating in job postings that only US citizens could be hired. This misinformation, according to the Justice Department, led to asylees and refugees having "virtually no chance" of being fairly considered or hired by SpaceX due to their citizenship status. This case is further complicated by a tweet from Musk himself in 2020, claiming that US law requires at least a green card for hiring at SpaceX due to the company’s involvement with "advanced weapons and technology." This claim, however, is contested by the lawsuit which states that export control laws do not prohibit or restrict employers from hiring asylees and refugees.

SpaceX Faces Discrimination Lawsuit

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is facing a lawsuit over allegations of discrimination against asylees and refugees. The lawsuit, filed by the Justice Department’s civil rights division, accuses the rocket company of numerous discriminatory practices during the recruitment and hiring process.

Discriminatory Practices & Musk’s Statements

According to the lawsuit, the alleged discriminatory practices were widespread, routine, and long-standing, causing significant harm to refugees and asylees. The company is accused of discouraging these individuals from applying for jobs by falsely stating in job postings that only US citizens could be hired.

The lawsuit also cites a tweet from Musk in 2020, where he stated that "US law requires at least a green card" to be hired at SpaceX, as rockets are regarded as "advanced weapons and technology". Similar claims were made at a 2016 conference where Musk suggested that a normal work visa would be insufficient to work at SpaceX without "special permission from the Secretary of Defense or Secretary of State".

Contradictions to Musk’s Claims

The Justice Department refutes these claims, stating that "export control laws and regulations do not prohibit or restrict employers from hiring asylees and refugees; those laws treat asylees and refugees just like U.S. citizens". Despite being informed of the investigation by the Justice Department in 2020, SpaceX allegedly continued its discriminatory practices.

Investigation Revelations

SpaceX initially resisted handing over employment records and contested a Justice Department subpoena in court. Upon the order of two federal judges, the company was compelled to provide the records. The records obtained by the Justice Department allegedly show that SpaceX "rejected applicants who identified as asylees or refugees" in their job applications between September 2018 and May 2022.

Consequences & Previous Litigations

Kristen Clarke, the head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, stated that the lawsuit "will hold SpaceX accountable for its illegal employment practices". Musk, no stranger to litigation, has faced lawsuits from previous employees of Twitter, SpaceX, and Tesla for labor law violations, sexism, and racism. In November 2022, Musk was accused of firing SpaceX employees in retaliation for criticizing him, which they claimed violates labor laws.


This lawsuit sheds light on the importance of fair hiring practices and the need for companies to adhere to laws prohibiting discrimination based on citizenship status. The outcome could have significant implications for SpaceX and other companies in similar industries. Despite the impressive strides SpaceX has made in the realm of space exploration, it is evident that they, like any other company, must ensure their practices are just and lawful.

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