SpaceX lays off employees after internal letter criticizing CEO Elon Musk

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk attends a post-launch press conference at the Press Site auditorium at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 30, 2020 following the launch of the agency’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station.

NASA/Kim Shiflett

SpaceX has fired at least five employees who were involved in spreading a letter around the company critical of CEO Elon Musk, according to two people familiar with the company who declined to be named, and an internal email from President and COO Gwynn Shotwell.

Shotwell, in a company-wide email on Thursday, said SpaceX had “layed off a number of employees involved” and called it unacceptable to “send repeated spam emails to thousands of people at the company,” according to copies of the email obtained by CNBC. Open letter, first published edge, was distributed earlier this week. More than 400 SpaceX employees signed the letter in less than a day and a half. This was reported by The Verge on Friday..

“We have too much important work to get done and there is no need for this kind of over-activity,” Shotwell wrote, adding that the letter “upset many” at the company and “left employees feeling uncomfortable, intimidated and intimidated.”

According to media reports, the letter was addressed to company executives, and the billionaire’s public behavior was described as a “frequent source of distraction and embarrassment” for SpaceX employees.

New York Times first reported the shooting at SpaceX. SpaceX did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment.

Musk is the majority owner of a private company, and as of last year, his trust fund held about 78% of SpaceX’s voting shares. The CEO has created an often eccentric image in public, especially on Twitter, where he offers commentary and news about SpaceX and its electric vehicle company Tesla.

Musk said he uses Twitter to express himself, likening the use of the service to “some people use their hair” and is looking to acquire the social media company.

During a Twitter meeting Thursday, Musk said free speech is critical for platform users, even if the company is privately owned by him, like SpaceX.

The SpaceX internal letter also mentions recent allegations of sexual harassment against Musk. reports Business Insider last month. The report says Musk sexually harassed a SpaceX flight attendant during a private flight, and that the company paid the employee $250,000 to keep her quiet.

Shotwell defended Musk following the misconduct allegations, writing in an email to employees at the time that she considered “the allegations to be false.”

In an email Thursday, Shotwell said SpaceX management is “more committed to ensuring we have a great and constantly improving work environment than any other I’ve seen” in her career. She also stressed that SpaceX has three launches scheduled “within 37 hours” this weekend, as well as ongoing work to support the International Space Station.

“I apologize for this distraction,” Shotwell said. “Please focus on the SpaceX mission and use your work time to do your best work.”

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