The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating Elon Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX for discrimination in hiring after a prospective employee filed a complaint saying the company rejected him due to his immigration status. Moreover, court documents from the DOJ suggest SpaceX is also stonewalling a subpoena for more information.
The DOJ’s complaint, filed Jan. 28 by DOJ attorney Lisa Sandoval says the DOJ’s Immigration and Employee Rights Section (IER) received the complaint in May 2020. The DOJ’s document says the individual interviewed for a position and was asked during the interview to disclose his U.S. citizenship status. After revealing he was not a U.S. citizen or a documented permanent resident, the company chose not to hire him.
The IER’s anti-discrimination provision prohibits discrimination based on citizenship status and national origin in hiring, firing, recruitment or referrals.
On June 8, the IER emailed SpaceX to request information and documents related to its hiring and employment eligibility verification practices. In August, the company responded, sending over a Form I-9 spreadsheet of employee information dating back to 2019. But SpaceX refused the DOJ’s request to include supporting documentation, like copies of employees’ passports, driver’s licenses or Social Security cards. In October 2020, the IER subpoenaed the documents, but the company did not hand them over.
SpaceX then filed a petition to dismiss the subpoena, saying the request exceeded the limits of the IER’s authority and that the documents were irrelevant. The DOJ’s administrative tribunal denied the petition. SpaceX was still ordered to comply.
In December 2020, the company acknowledged the order but said it does not intend to send over the required documents. The IER says these documents identifying employees are, indeed, relevant because they will reveal to what extent SpaceX hires non-citizens. It says retrieving these documents shouldn’t be especially burdensome, but the company claims it’d have to obtain each one manually.
The DOJ is now requesting a court order to force SpaceX to send the subpoenaed documents in within two weeks.