Latest News

Department of Justice Sues SpaceX for Hiring Discrimination Against Refugees

By Rachel Jewett | August 24, 2023

The DoJ alleges SpaceX discriminated against asylees and refugees in its hiring process, saying SpaceX cited ITAR restrictions.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against SpaceX on Thursday for discriminating against asylees and refugees in its hiring process. The DoJ alleges that SpaceX violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by discouraging asylees and refugees from applying and refusing to hire them because of their citizenship status.

According to the lawsuit, the Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER), an office within  the Civil Rights Division of the DoJ opened an investigation into SpaceX in May 2020. 

The DoJ says SpaceX officials repeatedly and publicly said the company can only hire U.S. citizens and permanent residents because of export control laws, like International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), because SpaceX manufactures rockets and related technologies. But the DoJ says these laws do not stop employers from hiring people who have received asylum (asylees) and refugees, who are treated like U.S. citizens under the law. 

The lawsuit references public statements by SpaceX founder Elon Musk, statements from company executives and recruiters and job posts that stated the company would only hire U.S. employees due to ITAR. 

The lawsuit says SpaceX’s own hiring records, obtained via subpoena, “repeatedly rejected applicants who identified as asylees or refugees because it believed that they were ineligible to be hired due to ITAR.” It cites that out of more than 10,000 hires between September 2018 and May 2022, SpaceX only hired one asylee, approximately four months after the company was notified it was under investigation.  

“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. 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 Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division

The lawsuit also points out that SpaceX hires for a variety of roles including welders, cooks, crane operators, baristas and dishwashers, and the lawsuit is not limited to jobs that require advanced degrees. 

The DoJ is seeking fair consideration and back pay for asylees and refugees who were deterred or denied employment at SpaceX due to the alleged discrimination, in addition to civil penalties.