Female engineer sues SpaceX for pay discrimination—alleges she was paid $23,000 less than male co-workers


A female engineer for SpaceX accused the aerospace company of paying women and minority employees less than male and white workers in a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court—the latest employment lawsuit to hit an Elon Musk-owned company.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk Unveils Company's New Manned Spacecraft, The Dragon V2

SpaceX was founded by Musk in 2002. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

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Key Takeaways
  • The plaintiff, Ashley Foltz, says in the proposed class action lawsuit she was hired on a $92,000 salary as a base-level engineer while the company offered up to $115,000 for the position to men with the same or less experience.
  • The lawsuit adds that Musk and company executives have “no legitimate justification for their discriminatory pay practices,” arguing that Foltz, who describes herself as one of the few female engineers at SpaceX, has been paid less than male engineers for completing the same or similar tasks throughout her time with the company.
  • Foltz found out about the pay gap when California’s Pay Transparency Act came into effect, requiring companies to post salary ranges in their job listings.
  • The lawsuit notes SpaceX’s job sorting structure, which designates workers into positions like “technical writer,” “engineer 1” and “engineer 2,” classifications that contribute to lower pay and lower promotion rates, according to the lawsuit.
  • Foltz accused SpaceX of violating California labor law, and asked the court to award civil penalties and monetary damages to her and any other affected employees.
  • SpaceX did not immediately respond to Forbes’ request for comment.
Crucial Quote

“[SpaceX] have created a scheme in an attempt to create a facially neutral pay structure to insulate their illegal pay practices from legal challenge and/or dissuade employees from realizing they have been paid unlawfully,” the lawsuit alleged, critiquing the company’s job sorting structure.

Key Background

SpaceX and Tesla, Musk’s electric vehicle company, have both been hit with discrimination lawsuits before. The aerospace company is currently fighting a hiring discrimination case from the Justice Department that accuses it of refusing to hire asylees and refugees.

A SpaceX executive wrote in the countersuit that the company has hired hundreds of noncitizens. One of the main points of contention within the lawsuit revolves around how military technology regulations impact the company’s hiring practices.

SpaceX was also sued by a former technician alleging he was harassed and retaliated against for a physical disability, according to Bloomberg. Tesla was ordered to pay $3.2 million to a Black former employee who won a racial harassment lawsuit against the company last year. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Tesla late last month, alleging it was complicit in racial harassment of Black employees and retaliated against some of the workers for opposing the harassment.

Meanwhile, some former employees of X—formerly known as Twitter—have sued, alleging the company owes them severance after Musk laid off a large portion of the platform’s staff after buying Twitter last year.

This article was first published on forbes.com and all figures are in USD.

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