SpaceX, the private rocket company, on Thursday fired employees who helped write and distribute an open letter criticizing the behavior of CEO Elon Musk, said three employees with knowledge of the situation.
Some SpaceX employees began circulating the letter, condemning Mr. Musk’s activity on Twitter on Wednesday. The letter called the billionaire’s public behavior and tweeting “a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment” and asked the company to restrain him. Mr. Musk is currently concluding a $ 44 billion deal to buy Twitter.
On Thursday afternoon, SpaceX had fired some of the letter̵[ads1]7;s organizers, according to the three employees and an email from Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer. In her email, obtained by The New York Times, she said the company had investigated and “terminated a number of employees involved” with the letter.
“The letter, the calls and the general process made employees feel uncomfortable, intimidated and bullied and / or angry because the letter forced them to sign something that did not reflect their views,” Shotwell wrote. “We have too much critical work to do and no need for this kind of overarching activism.”
It was unclear how many employees were laid off. James Gleeson, a SpaceX spokesman, did not immediately return a request for comment.
The open letter followed recently published allegations of sexual assault against Mr. Musk in the midst of his controversial acquisition of Twitter. On Thursday, Mr. Musk approached Twitter employees for the first time since his takeover bid via a video call to answer their questions.
In May, Insider reported that a flight attendant said that Mr. Musk suggested a sexual massage during a flight to London in 2016. The flight attendant said that he also exposed himself to her and offered her a horse, according to the article, the details. of these were not independently verified by The Times.
Mr. Musk called the charges “completely untrue”And joked about horses and his genitals on Twitter. Last month, Shotwell said in an email to SpaceX employees that she “personally” thought the allegations of sexual harassment against Musk were false.
At SpaceX, Mr. Musk is rarely challenged by his own workers, said the three employees, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Earlier this month, he notified company employees by email that they must spend at least 40 hours in the office or face dismissal.
The open letter about Mr. Musk’s online activity prompted SpaceX executives to “publicly address and condemn Elon’s malicious Twitter behavior” and “define and uniformly respond to all forms of unacceptable behavior.”
In her email to employees, Shotwell wrote: “Covering thousands of people across the company with repeated unsolicited emails and asking them to sign letters and fill out unsponsored surveys during the business day is not acceptable.”
“Please stay focused on the SpaceX mission and use your time to do your best work,” she continued. “This is how we get to Mars.”