SpaceX Might Be Forced to Comply with a DOJ Subpoena About Possible Hiring Discrimination

The Office of Immigrant and Employee Rights (IER), a part of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), began an investigation of Elon Musk’s SpaceX in June 2020, after a job applicant complained of hiring discrimination. The complaint was based on SpaceX’s not hiring foreigners.

Hiring Discrimination Complaint Filed with IER

The applicant filed a complaint with the IER in May 2020. The complaint alleged that SpaceX asked him about his citizenship status “and ultimately failed to hire him for the position because he is not a US citizen or lawful permanent resident,” as noted in a court document filed by DOJ attorney Lisa Sandoval in January 2021.

The applicant was interviewed for the position of technology strategy associate at SpaceX’s internet project Starlink in March 2020. His resume showed that he held dual Austrian and Canadian citizenship and is a lawful permanent U.S. resident. The applicant further told CNBC that during his interview process, SpaceX did not test him on his technical knowledge, and the company overlooked his coding samples that were provided.

In response to the complaint, SpaceX in its court filing called the case “facially nonsensical.” SpaceX clarified they had known about the applicant’s citizenship status from his resume. The interviewer was “unimpressed” by the applicant’s responses to questions, SpaceX said. Finally, the company decided not to hire anyone for that position.

DOJ Investigation of SpaceX Hiring Discrimination

The IER responded to SpaceX’s comments saying that its hiring manager wrote on the applicant’s interview feedback sheet: “[N]ot a U.S. citizen which is going to make it hard.” The IER also alleged that the company tried to remove the statement from its documents before submitting it as evidence.

The IER launched its investigation in June of 2020, based on the applicant’s complaint, and to determine if the company engaged in a pattern of discrimination. The IER also requested documentation from SpaceX related to its hiring process, which included Form I-9 data from June 2019, copies of any supporting documentation, copies of employees’ passports, driver’s licenses, or Social Security cards. DOJ’s attorney Sandoval stated that the documents are “highly relevant” in identifying whether SpaceX was “engaging in a pattern of not hiring [non-US citizens] due to their citizenship status.”

SpaceX Subpoenaed to Provide Relevant Documents

After SpaceX failed to provide the documents requested by the IER, the IER obtained a subpoena demanding the relevant documents by October 22, after issuing multiple extensions to SpaceX.

SpaceX requested that the authorities either revoke or modify the subpoena, arguing that it was “unduly burdensome” to submit paperwork involving 3,500 employees and that they had already spent more than 1,000 hours providing thousands of pages of documents. The IER authorities denied Space X’s request and gave the company 14 days to comply with the subpoena. SpaceX still refused, and the IER called on the California district court to force SpaceX to comply with the subpoena. SpaceX alleged that the IER failed to give affirmative justification as to why it required the documents; it also alleged government overreach.

On March 29, Magistrate Judge Michael Wilner recommended that the district judge force SpaceX to comply with the subpoena. Wilner said the subpoena was relevant and enforceable and that more documents were needed to determine discrimination by the company. Magistrate Judge Wilner’s recommendation will be reviewed by the federal district judge who will issue an order.

DOJ Office of Immigrant and Employee Rights

The role of the IER is to enforce the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigrant and Nationality Act. Federal law prohibits discrimination in hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral for a fee for discrimination based on citizenship status, national origin, unfair documentary practice, and retaliation or intimidation.

The IER has a hotline where anyone can file a complaint about any discrimination faced, and the IER will investigate the matter. The IER also has a hotline where employers can clarify any questions about the anti-discrimination provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

To learn more about this blog post or if you have any other immigration concerns, please feel free to contact me at or (484) 544-0022.

The post SpaceX Might Be Forced to Comply with a DOJ Subpoena About Possible Hiring Discrimination appeared first on Immigration Law Blog.

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