SpaceX sued by the Department of Justice for alleged discriminatory hiring


By Emily Price

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a suit against Elon Musk’s SpaceX Thursday, alleging that the company has discriminated against refugees when hiring employees. SpaceX holds a number of government contracts with the United States. 

According to the suit, between September 2018 and May 2022, SpaceX discouraged asylees and refugees from applying for employment and also refused to hire or consider them specifically due to their citizenship status. The government says that the company also falsely claimed in its job listings that positions were only available for United States citizens and green card holders due to federal export-control laws. SpaceX did not immediately respond to Fast Company’s request for comment.

“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,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement. “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 suit pertains not only to such SpaceX positions as software engineers and business analysts that require advanced degrees, but also applies to positions like welders, baristas, and dishwashers.

According to the DOJ, SpaceX hired only U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents from September 2018 to September 2020.

Asylees and refugees have been vetted by the U.S. government before being admitted to the country, and have come to the U.S. fleeing persecution in their home countries, the DOJ notes. Under federal law, employers cannot discriminate against them when hiring for positions, unless a government contract expressly forbids them from doing so. None of Space X’s contracts prevented the company from hiring migrants.

The U.S. is asking SpaceX to provide both consideration and back pay for asylees and refugees who were deterred or denied employment at the company due to the alleged discrimination. The department is also planning to seek civil penalties from the company which will be determined by a court, and is asking SpaceX to change its hiring policies going forward.


The DOJ has also set up a hotline as well as an email address where asylums and refugees who feel that they were discriminated against by SpaceX can report the issue to the Civil Rights Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section.

Fast Company