SpaceX Will Have to Explain Why It's Blocking a Federal Subpoena

Francesca Billington

Francesca Billington is a freelance reporter. Prior to that, she was a general assignment reporter for dot.LA and has also reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.

SpaceX Will Have to Explain Why It's Blocking a Federal Subpoena
Photo by SpaceX on Unsplash

A federal judge wants SpaceX to explain next week how it will defend its decision to block a federal subpoena of hiring documents.

Judge Michael Wilner of the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California has set a video conference hearing with lawyers for both sides on Feb. 8.

He said, in court documents, he will likely cover "how SpaceX plans to prove that compliance with the subpoena would be unduly burdensome for the company."


"I'd like to explore that topic (and probably others) with the parties before formal briefing begins," he wrote.

Last week, the DOJ asked an L.A. federal judge to order SpaceX to hand over Form 9 documents, which reveal employee citizenship status. The inquiry began with a complaint filed in May 2020 by a non-U.S. citizen, Fabien Hutter, who said SpaceX discriminated against him during a job interview.

The Hawthorne-based company valued at $60 billion had been ignoring subpoenas from the DOJ to release that information. SpaceX said the order fell beyond the purview of the DOJ's Immigrant and Employee Rights Section, but its request to revoke the subpoena was denied.

The Form 9 documents — federal lawyers argue — could show whether SpaceX demonstrates a pattern of not hiring U.S. citizens based on their citizenship status.

In his order, Wilner said that he is willing to discuss "other potential ways to resolve the action short of full-on legislation."

He also suggested both parties read his analysis from an "analogous (though clearly distinguishable) subpoena" in 2018 to a janitorial services company accused of sex discrimination and retaliation against three female employees.

He ruled in the case that a subpoena was relevant to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's investigation into "a broader pattern of misconduct at the company, including actions at another California job site, that may warrant a broader investigation."

"It also is expressly investigating class-based allegations," Wilner wrote. "This renders contact information about other employees relevant to the matter."

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