SpaceX sued the U.S. labor board in federal court, arguing that a complaint against the Elon Musk-led company for firing employees should be put on hold because the agency’s structure is unconstitutional.
The response comes after National Labor Relations Board prosecutors filed a formal complaint against SpaceX, accusing the space transportation company of illegally firing eight employees over an internal letter that sharply criticized Musk.
SpaceX fired back Thursday with a federal court lawsuit, saying that the complaint should be dismissed because the structure of the agency violates the “separation of powers” established in the U.S. Constitution. It’s asking the court to stop the NLRB from proceeding against it using the agency’s own system of administrative law judges in a way that SpaceX argues is unconstitutional.
“The NLRB proceedings against SpaceX deprive it of its constitutional right to trial by jury,” SpaceX said in the suit.
The NLRB declined to comment.
NLRB officials have accused several of Musk’s companies of illegally trying to silence workers. His automaker, Tesla Inc., has appealed multiple NLRB rulings against it to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
In 2022, SpaceX fired a number of employees who helped to draft and circulate an open letter within the company’s internal communication forums.
“Elon’s behavior in the public sphere is a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment for us, particularly in recent weeks,” the employees wrote. The letter, which welcomed other employees’ signatures, called for SpaceX to distance itself from Musk’s controversial online comments.
In its lawsuit, SpaceX argues that the open letter “caused significant distraction to SpaceX employees around the country,” and that the company fired employees associated with the letter “for violating numerous company policies.”
Complaints issued by NLRB prosecutors are considered by agency judges, whose rulings can be appealed to the NLRB members in Washington, and then to federal court. SpaceX’s suit argues the agency judges lack sufficient presidential oversight, and that “to prevent SpaceX from undergoing protracted administrative proceedings before an unconstitutionally structured agency,” the NLRB’s case against it should be put on hold.
The agency has scheduled a trial in the fired employees case for March.