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Former SpaceX Engineer Alleges Sexual Harassment in Essay 

By Rachel Jewett | December 15, 2021

Photo: Shutterstock

A former SpaceX engineer has alleged that she was sexually harassed at the company, and human resources did little to remedy the situation. 

Ashley Kosak, a former mission integration engineer at SpaceX, published an essay on the Lioness this week detailing her experience with the company. Then, four additional people spoke with Loren Grush of The Verge, alleging the company has a culture of sexual harassment that is handled poorly by human resources and management. 

Kosak described multiple instances of sexism and inappropriate behavior since she started at SpaceX in 2017 as an intern, including a fellow intern grabbing her butt in intern housing, and a male colleague running his hand over her chest.  

“Some of the men who work at SpaceX hug women without consent, stare at women while they work, and interpret every company-related social event as an opportunity to date (or hit on) women in the office,” Kosak wrote. 

She wrote that HR did not take action against the individuals and told her the matters were “too private to openly discuss with the perpetrators.” At one point, she was contacted by HR about a complaint submitted to the anonymous ethics and compliance tip line. 

Kosak quit in November 2021 after taking a week of medical leave to recover from panic attacks due to the stress. 

Kosak also describes the workplace in “disrepair and dysfunction,” with 20-hour days and constantly shifting priorities and goals. “[Founder Elon Musk] pushes engineers to the point of burnout, berates employees for not meeting the expectations he shifts at whiplash speed, or threatens workers with job loss if they don’t increase their output.” 

SpaceX did not immediately respond to a Via Satellite request to comment, and the company has not put out a public statement on the allegations. However, Grush reported for The Verge that SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell sent a letter to employees over the weekend encouraging them to report harassment. Shotwell said HR will conduct an internal audit and there will also be a third party audit.  

Tesla, which is also led by SpaceX founder Elon Musk, has also been accused of having a culture of sexual harassment. The Washington Post reported that six women sued the company this week, saying that they were subjected to lewd comments and inappropriate touching.