Musk’s SpaceX sued by US over illegal hiring practices against migrants

The US government filed suit against Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) for alleged discriminatory hiring practices against asylees and refugees who tried to work for the California-based company.

The Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER), an office within the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice (DoJ), filed the complaint Thursday.

The IER accused SpaceX of routinely refusing to hire migrants for jobs – regardless of qualifications – and instead based hiring decisions on the individual’s immigration status, which is in violation of US federal law.

From September 2018 to September 2020, the IER said that SpaceX had solely hired job seekers who were US citizens or lawful permanent residents, often referred to as green card holders.

“Our investigation also found that SpaceX recruiters and high-level officials took actions that actively discouraged asylees and refugees from seeking work opportunities at the company, said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

According to court documents, Musk’s spacecraft manufacturing and satellite communications company would discriminate against the would-be employees at multiple stages of the hiring process.

“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,” the Assistant Attorney General said.

The unjust hiring practices covered a wide variety of jobs, some requiring fewer skills, such as welders, cooks, crane operators, baristas, and dishwashers.

Other more advanced positions advertised by SpaceX during the time frame in question include IT specialists, software engineers, business analysts, rocket engineers, and marketing professionals, the filing said.

According to the DoJ, asylees and refugees are migrants to the United States who have fled persecution.

In order to obtain their status, the individual seeker must first undergo a vetting process with the US government.

The difference between the two is that refugees apply for their protection status while living abroad before coming to the US, while asylees are granted status upon entry into the country.

The granted permission for these migrants to work and live in the US does not expire, putting them on equal footing with US citizens and permanent residents.

Under the federal Immigration and Nationality Act, it is illegal to discriminate against refugees and asylees in hiring unless a law, regulation, or executive order requires the employer to do so.

SpaceX, which regularly works with export-controlled items – to include certain goods, software, technology, and technical data – would use the excuse that refugees and asylees were barred by the US government from handling export control goods, which is untrue.

Besides civil fines, the DoJ is seeking fair consideration and back pay for all potential applicants who may have been unfairly treated by Musk’s company.

Asylees and refugees who were denied or discouraged employment at SpaceX or have relevant information are being asked to contact the Justice Department.

Those wishing to file a charge can do so electronically.

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