Justice Department sues SpaceX for hiring Asylees and Refugees in a Discriminatory Manner


The Justice Department has taken legal action against Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) today, alleging discriminatory hiring practices towards asylees and refugees. The lawsuit claims that between September 2018 and May 2022, SpaceX systematically discouraged asylees and refugees from applying for positions and declined to consider them due to their citizenship status, which is in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

SpaceX had erroneously asserted, both in job postings and public statements over several years, that they were constrained by federal regulations known as “export control laws” to hire only U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. This claim is unfounded, as these laws do not impose such restrictions. In reality, individuals with asylee and refugee status have the same rights as U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents under export control laws. This means that SpaceX can hire them for the same positions as others and they can access export-controlled information without additional governmental approval.

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division emphasized that their investigation revealed SpaceX’s failure to treat asylees and refugees fairly due to their citizenship status. The lawsuit alleges multiple instances of discrimination in SpaceX’s hiring process, including discouraging their application, not fairly considering their applications, refusing to hire qualified candidates, and exclusively hiring U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents for a specific period.

The lawsuit seeks remedies including fair consideration and back pay for asylees and refugees who were deterred or denied employment due to the alleged discrimination. It also calls for civil penalties and policy changes to ensure compliance with the INA going forward.

Asylees and refugees, who have sought refuge in the U.S. due to persecution, undergo comprehensive vetting by the U.S. government. The INA prohibits discrimination against them in hiring unless explicitly required by law, regulation, executive order, or government contract. SpaceX’s claims of hiring limitations under export control laws were found to be baseless.


Individuals who believe they experienced any form of discrimination during the hiring process at SpaceX can contact the Civil Rights Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section for assistance and information on their rights and remedies. The lawsuit underscores the importance of fair employment practices for individuals of all citizenship statuses and origins

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