The US Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against SpaceX, a rocket and satellite company owned by Elon Musk, for alleged discrimination in hiring against refugees and persons seeking or have been granted political asylum.
According to a statement from the Justice Department, the lawsuit alleges that "from at least September 2018 to May 2022, SpaceX routinely discouraged asylees and refugees from applying and refused to hire or consider them, because of their citizenship status, in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act".
"In job postings and public statements over several years, SpaceX wrongly claimed that under federal regulations known as “export control laws,” SpaceX could hire only U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, sometimes referred to as “green card holders," the US Justice Department said.
"Export control laws impose no such hiring restrictions. Moreover, asylees’ and refugees’ permission to live and work in the United States does not expire, and they stand on equal footing with U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents under export control laws. Under these laws, companies like SpaceX can hire asylees and refugees for the same positions they would hire U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents," the Justice Department said.
"And once hired, asylees and refugees can access export-controlled information and materials without additional government approval, just like U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents," it added.
Additionally, the Justice Department also pointed to online posts from the company's billionaire owner Musk as example of "discriminatory public statements."
According to the lawsuit, CEO Musk posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, in June 2020, stating "U.S. law requires at least a green card to be hired at SpaceX, as rockets are advanced weapons technology," Reuters reported.
Musk criticized the Justice Department's lawsuit against SpaceX, calling it "weaponization of the DOJ for political purposes".
In a post on X, the CEO of SpaceX stated that the company "was told repeatedly that hiring anyone who was not a permanent resident of the United States would violate international arms trafficking law, which would be a criminal offense".
"We couldn’t even hire Canadian citizens, despite Canada being part of NORAD! This is yet another case of weaponization of the DOJ for political purposes," Musk said.
“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 Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
“Our investigation also found that SpaceX recruiters and high-level officials took actions that actively discouraged asylees and refugees from seeking work opportunities at the company," Clarke added.
The United States seeks fair consideration and back pay for asylees and refugees who were deterred or denied employment at SpaceX due to the alleged discrimination, the Justice Department said.
The DoJ lawsuit also seeks civil penalties in an amount to be determined by the court and policy changes to ensure SpaceX complies with the federal nondiscrimination mandate going forward.
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