‘Free speech absolutist’ fires SpaceX employees for writing open letter

SpaceX, a private rocket company owned by a man who claims to be a “absolutist of freedom of expression”, fired employees it says wrote an open letter criticizing its landlord’s antics on Twitter.

The owner in question is, of course, Elon Musk, whose public escapades have escalated greatly since he rushed into an ill-advised deal to buy Twitter in April.

A circulating draft letter, first reported by The Verge earlier this week, led to the dismissal of an unknown number of staff on Thursday afternoon.

The letter’s authors urged SpaceX executives to “quickly and explicitly ‘separate the business’ from Elon’s personal brand,” and argued that the billionaire’s “recent behavior in the public sphere” is a ” frequent source of distraction and embarrassment” for the company.

“As CEO and most prominent spokesperson, Elon is considered the face of SpaceX – each Tweet sent by Elon is a de facto public statement by the company,” the letter read. “It is essential to make it clear to our teams and our pool of potential talent that his message does not reflect our work, our mission or our values.”

Musk has also long promoted an official “no asshole” workplace policy at SpaceX as well as a “zero tolerance” policy on sexual harassment, both of which the authors called on management to clarify and enforce. coherently.

“SpaceX must establish safe pathways to report and maintain clear repercussions for any unacceptable behavior, whether from the CEO or an employee starting their first day,” they wrote.

Both SpaceX and Musk himself face separate sexual harassment allegations.

Many former employees told The Verge last year that SpaceX’s human resources department did not take harassment complaints seriously. This includes Ashley Kosak, a former mission integration engineer, who described a work environment in which she “couldn’t stop being sexually harassed” in a blog post after quitting.

Musk is also facing the fallout from a high-profile sexual harassment allegation involving a former flight attendant, which he called “totally false”.

SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell emailed employees Thursday after the layoffs and slammed the letter as a form of “excessive activism.”

“The letter, the solicitations and the general process made employees feel uncomfortable, intimidated and intimidated and/or angry because the letter caused them to sign something that did not reflect their point of view,” said Shotwell writes in the email, a copy of which has been obtained. by the New York Times. “We have too much critical work to do and we don’t need this kind of excessive activism.”


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