DOJ Sues SpaceX for Hiring Practices

A pair of Falcon Heavy boosters landing. Morgan Stanley emphasized the double flywheel nature of SpaceX's launch and Starlink business
A pair of Falcon Heavy boosters landing. Photo: SpaceX

The DOJ unveiled a lawsuit against SpaceX on Thursday, claiming the launch giant discriminated against refugees and asylees in its hiring practices. 

“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,” said DOJ assistant attorney general Kristen Clarke.

The lawsuit details:

  • The suit alleges that SpaceX wrongly stated in job listings that due to International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) rules it could only hire US citizens and green card holders.
  • The DOJ claims that this policy discriminates against refugees and asylees as they don’t fall into either one of those categories despite being “lawful permanent residents under export control laws.”

The DOJ asserts ITAR rules define a US person as a citizen, national, lawful permanent resident, refugee, or asylee.

The DOJ’s suit contends that SpaceX’s overly restrictive hiring practices occurred between September 2018 and May 2022. The agency is seeking consideration and lost pay for candidates not considered due to the policy. 

Elon responds: Elon Musk fired back last night on X claiming, “SpaceX 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.”

ITAR 101: ITAR is a stringent regulatory power tasked with safeguarding trade secrets and the improper exportation of US defense tech. The regulatory framework governs nearly all aerospace companies—including SpaceX. 

Note: A previous version of this story included reference to “asylum seekers” instead of “asylees,” who have been granted asylum. This error has been corrected.