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SpaceX Slammed with another California Labor Class Action Lawsuit

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SpaceX faces yet another California labor law class action lawsuit -- this time for failing to pay hourly workers proper minimum, straight time and overtime wages and other California labor violations.

Los Angeles, CAA former SpaceX worker has filed a California wage and hour class action, accusing the spacecraft engineering company--led by Elon Musk--of yet again violating California labor laws, including failing to pay hourly workers proper minimum, straight time and overtime wages. As well, the company is accused of denying employees proper rest and meal breaks--similar accusations it settled a few years ago.

Plaintiff Juan Padilla worked at SpaceX as a non-exempt employee from January to September 2022. Because he is classified as non-exempt, Padilla is legally entitled to overtime pay for hours worked beyond a 40-hour workweek at a rate of at least one and a half times their regular hourly wage, as stipulated under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  According to the labor lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Padilla claims that SpaceX:

  • Failed to pay for all hours worked (including minimum, straight time, and overtime wages)
  • Failed to provide mandated meal and rest breaks
  • Coerced employees into working off-the-clock without compensation (Padilla was often required to work before clocking in for his shift from 3 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.)
  • Failed to maintain accurate records of hours worked – and calculation of the true wage entitlement for Plaintiff and the Class is difficult and time-consuming.
  • Failed to timely pay all final wages to Plaintiff when Defendants terminated their employment
  • Failed to indemnify Plaintiff for expenditures

Padilla said that, instead of providing employees with mandated 30-minute meal breaks and 10-minute rest periods, SpaceX "continued to assert control over plaintiff and the class by requiring, pressuring, or encouraging them to perform work tasks that could not be completed without working in lieu of taking mandatory meal periods, or by denying plaintiff and the class permission to take a meal period…Accordingly, defendants' policy and practice was not to provide meal periods to plaintiff and the class in compliance with California law."

SpaceX Wage Violations Settlement

This is just one of several labor claims filed against Musk’s companies, and not the first time SpaceX has been accused of labor violations. In 2014, several former employees filed lawsuits against SpaceX that California courts joined into one class action lawsuit. In 2017, the company settled the $3.9 million lawsuit involving 4,100 workers who claimed they were underpaid. Similar to this current class action, the previous labor lawsuit claimed that SpaceX supervisors imposed work schedules that prevented legally required rest and meal breaks, and the employees were not compensated for the time they spent working instead of eating.

Perhaps almost $4 million is a drop in the bucket to the world’s richest person. In 2017 and in response to the settlement, CNBC wrote that, “It’s doubtful that a $4 million payout will compel Musk to change much about how he runs his businesses. But at some point the market might do that for him. If he continues to pay his SpaceX interns only half of what Facebook does — about $4,000 a month as compared to the $8,000 a month Zuckerberg’s most junior employees make, according to the anonymous employer ranking site Glassdoor — he could lose talented prospects to companies in Silicon Valley.”

In 2017 SpaceX had a positive 4.4 out of 5 rating on Glassdoor and its CEO had an approval rating of 98 percent. One SpaceX intern quipped that “Everyone is a fanboy and Musk’s word is law.” While Musk is known to work 100 hours per week, it doesn’t mean that his employees must adhere to his schedule.

Unfortunately, this settlement didn’t seem to change the company’s compliance with California and federal labor regulations.
According to CNN, SpaceX, which Musk founded in 2002, holds billions of dollars worth of contracts with the US military and NASA, including deals to deliver astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station and a contract to ferry astronauts to the lunar surface as part of its Artemis program. SpaceX has nearly 10,000 total employees.


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