SpaceX has fired employees who wrote an open letter against Elon Musk’s behaviour on Twitter in the public sphere, calling it a “frequent source of distraction and embarrassment” for them.
According to The New York Times, a number of the letter’s drafters were fired by the company late on Thursday, and SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell criticised the open letter as “overreaching activism”.
Shotwell said SpaceX had “terminated a number of employees involved” in writing the letter.
“The letter, solicitations and general process made employees feel uncomfortable, intimidated and bullied, and/or angry because the letter pressured them to sign onto something that did not reflect their views,” wrote Shotwell.
“We have too much critical work to accomplish and no need for this kind of overreaching activism,” she added.
In an open letter addressed to company executives, the employees called out Musk’s behaviour on Twitter, regarding allegations of sexual harassment against him by a female company employee last month.
“As our CEO and most prominent spokesperson, Elon is seen as the face of SpaceX, every Tweet that Elon sends is a de facto public statement by the company. It is critical to make clear to our teams and to our potential talent pool that his messaging does not reflect our work, our mission, or our values,” the SpaceX employees wrote.
Employees “across the spectra of gender, ethnicity, seniority, and technical roles have collaborated on” writing the letter.
Last month, an Insider report claimed that Musk allegedly offered to buy a horse to a SpaceX female employee in exchange for an erotic massage and touching “his genitals”.
“She accused Musk of… rubbing her leg without consent, and offering to buy her a horse in exchange for an erotic massage,” the report claimed, quoting interviews and documents.
The incident took place in 2016 and was reported in a declaration “signed by a friend of the attendant and prepared in support of her claim”.
Musk defended himself on Twitter, saying “it was clear that their only goal was a hit price to interfere with the Twitter acquisition. The story was written before they even talked to me”.
In an email sent to employees, SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell also defended Musk.
“Personally, I believe the allegations to be false; not because I work for Elon, but because I have worked closely with him for 20 years and never seen nor heard anything resembling these allegations,” Shotwell wrote.
The letter by the employees argued that the company is not living up to its zero-tolerance sexual harassment policy.
“This must change. SpaceX must swiftly and explicitly separate itself from Elon’s personal brand,” the employees wrote in the open letter.
A US judge last month denied Tesla’s motion for arbitration in a sexual harassment case, directing that the lawsuit accusing Musk-run electric car company fostering a workplace with “rampant” sexual harassment will continue.
Tesla employee Jessica Barraza filed the lawsuit last year, claiming she was “subjected to catcalling, lewd comments, and inappropriate touching while working as a production associate at Tesla’s Fremont, California factory”.
After her, at least six more woman came forward and filed separate lawsuits against electric car-maker for rampant sexually harassment.