The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Elon Musk’s SpaceX, alleging the space exploration company discriminated in its hiring practices by illegally disqualifying asylees and refugees from jobs.
In a lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court in Washington, D.C., the Justice Department said that for years, SpaceX officials from Musk, its chief executive, on down, repeatedly said it could only hire U.S. citizens and green card holders in public statements, job posts and at recruitment fairs.
“U.S. law requires at least a green card to be hired at SpaceX, as rockets are advanced weapons technology” the suit quoted Musk as saying in a post on X in 2020, when it was known as Twitter.
The suit said SpaceX cited its requirements under the export control act, which limits the export and sale of certain technology abroad, as barring it from hiring non-citizens or people without green cards.
But the Department of Justice argued that people who had received refugee status or had been granted asylum in the U.S. have the same rights to work as citizens and green card holders. The suit said the export control act in no way imposes such hiring restrictions.
The suit said that from 2018 through 2020, SpaceX routinely rejected applicants who had been granted asylum or refugee status and only hired those who were U.S. citizens or had green cards.
The suit also alleges that SpaceX regularly marked job candidates who had been granted asylum or refugee status as ineligible to work in its recruitment databases.
“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,” said Kristen Clarke, of the Justice Department’s civil rights division.
A message sent to representatives of SpaceX wasn’t immediately returned.
The DOJ said the suit seeks fair consideration and back pay for any refugee or asylum recipient who was deterred from applying for a job or denied employment at SpaceX. It also asks the court to hit SpaceX with civil penalties.