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SpaceX Faces Lawsuit Over Gender Discrimination Allegations

— August 27, 2020

SpaceX is under fire in a lawsuit accusing it of allowing sexual harassment and retaliation against a former intern.

A former intern working for SpaceX recently filed a lawsuit against the Hawthorne-based company over allegations that she was denied a job offer after “working there for three summers in retaliation for complaining about sexual and gender harassment.” The intern was Julia CrowleyFarenga, and she filed the suit in Los Angeles Superior Court. It accuses SpaceX of discrimination, retaliation, and failure to prevent discrimination and retaliation. CrowleyFarenga is seeking unspecified damages.

Gavel with law books; image by wp paarz, via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, no changes.
Gavel with law books; image by wp paarz, via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, no changes.

What happened, though? What sort of discrimination did she face? For starters, CrowleyFarenga began working at SpaceX as a summer intern in June 2015. She also did “additional internships during the summers of 2016 and 2017.” During her internships, “she worked for the propulsion department with the same manager, and by the third summer complained to human resources that he was subjecting her to gender and sexual harassment,” according to the lawsuit. During her meeting with HR, she told them that her manager was “coercing her to meet with him for 1 1/2 to two hours for one-on-one manager meetings that were only supposed to last 30 minutes,” according to her court documents. 

On one occasion, the manager allegedly acted “possessive and jealous” and he told CrowleyFarenga, “You are unique, I could spend the rest of my life trying to figure you out.” The suit further states that the manager told her that a “meeting they had would be better if we were at Harry Potter World.” HR did nothing to stop the harassment, though, and CrowleyFarenga eventually began looking for transfer opportunities in the company because she felt she had no choice. Fortunately, she found one and was able to transfer to a different team. 

During her time working at SpaceX, CrowleyFarenga underwent six performance reviews. Five of those were positive, but her sixth and final review in 2017 was negative. According to the suit, “when the internship term ended, she was not extended a job offer at the company upon graduation from her master’s degree program, which she would have finished in the subsequent academic year.” 

At the end of her internship, her new manager told her that because there were insufficient open positions, she was not getting an offer. Another SpaceX manager, however, was a bit more optimistic and told her she would probably receive a job offer in January 2018. January came and went and CrowleyFarenga never received an offer. In her lawsuit, she claims “her complaints about gender and sexual harassment played a role” in not receiving an offer. 


Former SpaceX Intern Alleges Retaliation in Failure to Hire Her

SpaceX Withheld Job After Harassment Report, Ex-Intern Says

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