Musk’s alleged crossing of personal lines with employees points to a larger problem: an apparent indifference or persistent blindness to race and gender issues in the workplace.
Former SpaceX engineer Ashley Kosak posted an essay online in 2021 describing a culture where sexism was rampant and the company did nothing to stop it. She described “countless men” making sexual advances. After a male co-worker “ran his hand over my shirt from the bottom of my waist to my chest,” she reported the incident but said no one followed up and the man stayed in his crew.
Shortly after, The Verge spoke to several former employees who supported the bulk of Kosak’s account and said they faced similar harassment and retaliation for reporting it.
SpaceX has not responded to The Verge’s allegations. The publication obtained an email written by SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell stating that the company takes sexual harassment seriously and that “we also know we can always do better.”
After the report of his alleged horse bid, SpaceX employees wrote an open letter criticizing Musk’s behavior and the distraction he created. Some of the employees behind the letter have been fired, according to a message from Shotwell obtained by The New York Times. In his letter, Shotwell said those who were asked to sign the letter felt “uncomfortable, intimidated and intimidated”.
At Tesla, black workers have for years filed well-documented complaints about racism in the factory. Earlier this year, the California Civil Rights Agency filed suit against the company on behalf of thousands of workers.
Black workers complained that managers called them monkeys and other racial slurs, including the routine use of the N-word. Some alleged that black workers were given the worst jobs, regardless of their qualifications. When complaining to human resources, several said it made things worse and some were fired.
Tesla disputed the workers’ accounts at the time, saying, “Tesla prohibits discrimination in any form.”
Musk was not directly involved in any of the complaints. Nor has he shown any signs of taking them any more seriously than he has in the past taken allegations of bias in his company’s workplaces or criticism of his own conduct. His response: an e-mail to workers advising victims of racism to have “thick skin”.
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