SpaceX, Elon Musk’s rocket company, has been sued by the US government for allegedly discriminating against asylum seekers and refugees in its hiring practices.
SpaceX falsely claimed that the company could only hire U.S. citizens and permanent residents because of export control laws, which prevented asylum seekers and refugees from applying, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a statement Thursday.
While SpaceX must comply with legal restrictions on the shipment of certain goods and technologies abroad, U.S. law does not require companies to treat asylum seekers and refugees differently from citizens or green card holders, the DOJ said.
The Justice Department said it would ask the courts to impose civil penalties on SpaceX and demand back payments for asylum seekers and refugees who were prevented from applying or denied work.
“Our investigation found that SpaceX failed to fairly consider or hire asylum seekers and refugees because of their citizenship status and that it imposed a ban on their hiring, regardless of their qualification, in violation of federal law,” says Deputy Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department. The civil rights department of the ministry said so.
“Our investigation also found that SpaceX recruiters and senior officials took actions that actively discouraged asylum seekers and refugees from seeking employment with the company. Asylum seekers and refugees have overcome many obstacles in their lives, and unlawful discrimination in the labor market based on their citizenship should not be one of them.”
SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Musk, one of the richest people in the world, founded SpaceX in 2002 with the goal of reducing the cost of space missions and facilitating future interplanetary travel.
The company also offers a commercial Internet service through Starlink, a collection of thousands of low-orbit satellites that have played a key role in Ukraine’s battlefield communications since the Russian invasion of the country.
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