Private rocket company SpaceX fired at least five employees after discovering they had written and distributed a letter criticizing founder Elon Musk and urging officials to change the company’s culture.
Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX, announced in a memo that the company had “terminated a number of employees involved” in writing the letter. She added that the employees in question “upset many” by making an “unsolicited request” to sign it.
“The letter, solicitations and general process made employees feel uncomfortable, intimidated and bullied, and/or angry because the letter pressured them to sign onto something that did not reflect their views,” Shotwell said in the memo obtained by The Verge. Shotwell referred to the internal open letter campaign as “unacceptable” and stated that the employees were sacked following an examination into their behavior. It wasn’t immediately clear how many staff had been let go. “We have too much critical work to accomplish and no need for this kind of overreaching activism,” Shotwell added.
The employees’ open letter made reference to recent allegations of sexual misbehavior against Musk, which are said to have led to a $250,000 settlement. Musk called the accusations “utterly untrue” and cracked a nasty joke on Twitter about some of the specifics. Musk was defended by SpaceX, with Shotwell stating that she “personally” thought the allegations were untrue.
Another topic covered in the letter was distractions caused by Musk’s Twitter use. In February, the SEC launched an investigation into Musk for possible insider trading, and a court recently ruled that Tesla’s lawyers must continue to approve his tweets. (Earlier this week, Musk filed an appeal against that decision.) Prior to the letter, Musk allegedly told SpaceX employees that they must work at least 40 hours per week or risk being fired.