The DOJ Has Opened an Investigation into SpaceX for Alleged Hiring Discrimination
Francesca Billington is a dot.LA editorial intern. She's previously reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. Before joining dot.LA, she was a communications fellow at an environmental science research center in Sri Lanka. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.
The U.S. Department of Justice has launched an investigation into whether Elon Musk's SpaceX discriminates based on citizenship status, according to court documents filed Thursday.
The DOJ is asking a federal judge in Los Angeles to order SpaceX to turn over Form 9 documents, which show an employee's citizenship status, within two weeks. It comes after the rocketship maker ignored the DOJ's subpoenas filed for the documents last year.
The forms could "demonstrate, among other things, the extent to which SpaceX hires non-U.S. citizens and may reveal whether or not it is engaging in a pattern of not hiring them due to their citizenship status," federal lawyers argued in court filings.
The inquiry was prompted by a complaint filed with the DOJ's Immigrant and Employee Rights Section, or IER, in May of 2020 from a non-U.S. citizen. He alleged that during his interview for a technology strategy associate job, SpaceX "made inquiries about his citizenship status and ultimately failed to hire him for the position because he is not a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident," DOJ attorney Lisa Sandoval wrote.
Neither SpaceX nor the Department of Justice responded immediately for comment.
The company, run by the South African-born billionaire, reportedly hit a $60 billion valuation this week after a new round of funding. Musk, the world's richest man, has been at the center of the GameStop controversy after he tweeted a link to the Reddit forum with the word "Gamestonk!!"
The IER said it notified Hawthorne-based SpaceX of the open investigation and requested any documents and information related to its hiring processes. After a series of extensions, the company returned a spreadsheet with Form-9 data collected since June 2019.
But Sandoval wrote that the company failed to disclose the requested Form 9 documentation, including copies of employees' passports, driver's licenses or Social Security cards.
"Indeed, it is hard to imagine information more relevant to an unfair documentary practices investigation (which typically involves an employer asking new hires for more documents than necessary to complete the Form I-9 due to their citizenship status) than the Form I-9 supporting documentation of recent hires," she added.
The IER obtained a subpoena on Oct. 7, 2020 but SpaceX did not comply.
Weeks later, SpaceX filed a petition to revoke the subpoena — on the basis that it fell beyond the scope of the IER's authority — but the request was denied. The company said it "does not intend to produce any additional information in response to the administrative subpoena," according to court documents.
Meanwhile, the DOJ claims that SpaceX "cannot demonstrate that it (the subpoena) is either overbroad or unduly burdensome."
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As Big Tech cracks down on moderation after the Capitol attack and Wall Street braces for more fallout from social media's newfound influence on stock trading,
legislators are eyeing changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. On Wednesday, February 10, dot.LA brought together legal perspectives and the views of a founder and venture capitalist on the ramifications of changing the way that social media and other internet companies deal with the content posted on their platforms.
A critic of Big Tech moderation, Craft Ventures General Partner and former COO of PayPal David Sacks called for an amendment of the law during dot.LA's Strategy Session Wednesday. Tyler Newby and Andrew Klungness, both partners at law firm Fenwick, laid out the potential legal implications of changing the law.
David Sacks, Co-Founder and General Partner of Craft Ventures
David Sacks, Co-Founder and General Partner of Craft Ventures<p>David Sacks is co-founder and general partner at Craft. He has been a successful tech entrepreneur and investor for two decades, building and investing in some of the most iconic companies of the last 20 years. David has invested in over 20 unicorns, including Affirm, Airbnb, Bird, Eventbrite, Facebook, Houzz, Lyft, Opendoor, Palantir, Postmates, Reddit, Slack, SpaceX, Twitter and Uber.</p><p>In December 2014, Sacks made a major investment in Zenefits and became the company's COO. A year later, in the midst of a regulatory crisis, the Board asked David to step in as interim CEO of Zenefits. During his one year tenure, David negotiated resolutions with insurance regulators across the country, and revamped Zenefits' product line. By the time he left, regulators had praised David for "righting the ship", and PC Magazine hailed the new product as the best small business HR system.</p><p>David is well known in Silicon Valley for his product acumen. AngelList's Naval Ravikant has called David "the world's best product strategist." David likes to begin any meeting with a new startup by seeing a product demo.</p>
Kelly O'Grady, Chief Correspondent & Host and Head of Video at dot.LA<p>Kelly O'Grady is dot.LA's chief host & correspondent. Kelly serves as dot.LA's on-air talent, and is responsible for designing and executing all video efforts. A former management consultant for McKinsey, and TV reporter for NESN, she also served on Disney's Corporate Strategy team, focusing on M&A and the company's direct-to-consumer streaming efforts. Kelly holds a bachelor's degree from Harvard College and an MBA from Harvard Business School. A Boston native, Kelly spent a year as Miss Massachusetts USA, and can be found supporting her beloved Patriots every Sunday come football season.</p>
Tyler Newby is a partner at Fenwick
Andrew Klungness is a partner at Fenwick
Sam Adams, Co-Founder and CEO of dot.LA
Sam Adams, Co-Founder and CEO of dot.LA<p>Sam Adams serves as chief executive of dot.LA. A former financial journalist for Bloomberg and Reuters, Adams moved to the business side of media as a strategy consultant at Activate, helping legacy companies develop new digital strategies. Adams holds a bachelor's degree from Harvard College and an MBA from the University of Southern California. A Santa Monica native, he can most often be found at Bay Cities deli with a Godmother sub or at McCabe's with a 12-string guitar. His favorite colors are Dodger blue and Lakers gold.</p>
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