SpaceX, the private rocket company, on Thursday fired employees who helped write and distribute an open letter criticizing CEO Elon Musk’s behavior, three employees with knowledge of the situation said.
Some SpaceX employees began distributing the letter Wednesday, which denounced Mr. Musk’s activity on Twitter. The letter called the billionaire’s public behavior and tweeting “a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment” and asked the company to rein in him. Musk is currently in a $44 billion deal to buy Twitter.
By Thursday afternoon, SpaceX fired some organizers from the letter, according to the three employees and an email from Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer. In her email, obtained by DailyExpertNews, she said the company had investigated and “terminated” a number of affected employees with the letter.
“The letter, requests and general process left employees feeling uncomfortable, intimidated and bullied and/or angry because the letter pressured them to sign anything that did not reflect their views,” Ms Shotwell wrote. “We have too much critical work to do and we don’t need this kind of exaggerated activism.”
It is not clear how many employees have been laid off. James Gleeson, a spokesperson for SpaceX, did not immediately return a request for comment.
The open letter followed recently published allegations of sexual misconduct against Mr. Musk during his controversial takeover of Twitter. On Thursday, Mr. Musk addressed Twitter employees via video call for the first time since his takeover bid to answer their questions.
In May, Insider reported that a flight attendant said that Mr. Musk proposed to her for a sexual massage during a flight to London in 2016. The flight attendant said he also exposed himself to her and offered her a horse, according to the article, details of which are not. were independently verified by The Times.
Mr Musk called the allegations “completely false” and joked about horses and his genitals on Twitter. Last month, Ms. Shotwell said in an email to SpaceX employees that she “personally believed” the sexual harassment allegations against Mr. Musk were false.
At SpaceX, Mr. Musk is rarely challenged by his own employees, the three employees said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Earlier this month, he emailed the company’s employees that they must spend at least 40 hours in the office or they will be fired.
The open letter about Mr. Musk’s online activity asked SpaceX leaders to “publicly address and condemn elon’s harmful Twitter behavior” and “define and uniformly respond to all forms of unacceptable behavior.”
In her email to staff, Ms Shotwell wrote: “Decking thousands of people across the company with repeated unsolicited emails asking them to sign letters and complete unsponsored surveys during the workday is not acceptable.”
“Please stay focused on the SpaceX mission and use your time to do your best work,” she continued. “That’s how we get to Mars.”