SpaceX has fired at least five of its employees due to their involvement with a letter that made the rounds at the company, which was critical of CEO Elon Musk.
According to CNBC, this information came from two people familiar with the company but declined to be named, as well as an internal email from President and COO Gwynne Shotwell.
In Shotwell’s company-wide email sent Thursday, the COO said that SpaceX “terminated a number of employees involved” and called “blanketing thousands of people across the company with repeated unsolicited emails” unacceptable, according to copies of the email obtained by CNBC. The open letter was first reported by The Verge, and according to the publication, it circulated through the company earlier this week. More than 400 SpaceX employees signed the letter in under a day and a half, The Verge reported Friday.
“We have too much critical work to accomplish and no need for this kind of overreaching activism,” Shotwell wrote, adding the letter “upset many” within the company and “made employees feel uncomfortable, intimidated and bullied.”
According to media sources, the letter was addressed to business leadership and described Musk’s public actions as “a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment” for SpaceX staff.
Musk’s trust owns around 78 percent of SpaceX’s voting shares as of last year, making him the company’s controlling stakeholder. On social media, the CEO has developed an unconventional presence, particularly on Twitter, where he provides opinions and updates on SpaceX and his electric vehicle company, Tesla.
The internal SpaceX letter also alluded to recent allegations of sexual misbehavior against Musk, which were first revealed by Business Insider last month. Musk sexually harassed a SpaceX flight attendant during a private trip, according to the article, and the business paid the woman $250,000 in exchange for her silence.
After the claims of impropriety, Shotwell defended Musk, writing in an email to colleagues at the time that she believed “the allegations to be false.” Shotwell wrote in an email on Thursday that SpaceX management “is more dedicated to ensuring we have a great and ever-improving work environment than any I have seen” in her career. She also mentioned that SpaceX has three launches planned for this weekend, all “within 37 hours,” as well as continuous operations to support the International Space Station.
“I am sorry for this distraction,” Shotwell said. “Please stay focused on the SpaceX mission, and use your time at work to do your best work.”