Judge orders Elon Musk's SpaceX to hand prosecutors probing alleged hiring discrimination documents
- A judge has ordered Elon Musk's SpaceX to give the DoJ its hiring records within 21 days.
- The DoJ is investigating whether SpaceX discriminates against job applicants based on citizenship status.
- SpaceX had repeatedly refused to comply with a DoJ subpoena asking for the documentation.
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Elon Musk's SpaceX must hand its hiring records to the Department of Justice (DoJ) for a probe into whether it discriminates against job applicants based on their citizenship status, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday.
SpaceX has repeatedly refused to comply with a DoJ subpoena asking for documents related to its hiring process, saying in February that authorities had given only "the flimsiest of justifications."
The company now has 21 days to turn in the documentation, US District Judge Dolly Gee ruled.
CNBC first reported on the judgment.
The investigation started with a complaint a job applicant filed with the Office of Immigrant and Employee Rights (IER), a division of the DoJ, in May 2020.
He was interviewed for a job at SpaceX's internet project, Starlink, in March 2020, and alleged that it chose not to hire him after asking about his dual Austrian-Canadian citizenship status, as per a DoJ court filing. He told CNBC that he wasn't asked technical questions during the interview.
Under US International Traffic in Arms Regulations, non-US citizens can work for SpaceX if they have a green card.
In a court filing, SpaceX called the case "facially nonsensical." SpaceX said it knew about his citizenship before offering him the interview, that the interviewer was "unimpressed" by his responses to questions, and that it ultimately didn't hire anyone for the role.
But IER said that a SpaceX hiring manager wrote on the applicant's interview feedback sheet: "Not a US citizen which is going to make it hard."
After a series of IER requests for documents and deadline extensions, SpaceX provided some, but not all, of the documents the IER wanted. SpaceX said providing all documents would be "unduly burdensome" and would involve submitting documents from more than 3,500 employees "from barista to rocket scientist."
IER obtained a subpoena, which SpaceX refused to comply with. It asked authorities to modify or revoke the subpoena, arguing that it exceeded the scope of IER's authority and wasn't relevant to the investigation.
The authorities denied SpaceX's request in December and ordered SpaceX to comply with the subpoena within 14 days - but SpaceX still refused to send the information. It said it had already spent more than 1,000 hours complying with IER's requests and said the authorities had given only "the flimsiest of justifications," calling it "the very definition of government overreach."
In a court filing in March, a magistrate judge recommended that the district judge force SpaceX to comply with the subpoena, saying that the subpoena was relevant and enforceable. SpaceX objected to the recommendations, but Gee's court reviewed the case for two months before making its judgment on Thursday.
SpaceX, IER, and the DoJ did not immediately respond to requests for comment outside of normal business hours.
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