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SpaceX countersues Justice Department, seeking to dismiss hiring discrimination case

SpaceX headquarters in Los Angeles, California.
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Elon Musk’s SpaceX sued the U.S. Department of Justice in a Texas federal court, as the company aims to stop the DOJ’s hiring discrimination case on constitutional grounds.

The countersuit comes after the DOJ sued the company last month, alleging it discriminates in its hiring practices against refugees and people granted asylum in the U.S. Unlike SpaceX’s suit – filed in the Southern District of Texas – the DOJ suit was filed within a division of the agency that adjudicates immigration cases, a key point of contention in the company’s response.

“SpaceX has not engaged in any practice or pattern of discriminating against anyone, including asylees or refugees. To the contrary, SpaceX wants to hire the very best candidates for every job regardless of their citizenship status, and in fact has hired hundreds of noncitizens,” SpaceX’s counsel, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, wrote in the complaint filed Friday.

SpaceX’s suit names a trio of defendants, including U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland.

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Central to the dispute is whom the company can hire under military technology regulations, specifically given how rocket and spacecraft tech falls under International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and the Export Administration Regulations (EAR).

“Every SpaceX employee has access to technology and data controlled by these statutory and regulatory regimes,” the company wrote in the countersuit.

Founded in 2002, SpaceX employs over 13,000 people across the U.S. In its response, SpaceX alleged it has “hired hundreds of noncitizens, including hires who were not U.S. Persons under” ITAR.

“Throughout its rapid growth, SpaceX has always sought, and continues to seek, to hire the most talented people possible,” the company said.

In recent years, SpaceX said its job postings averaged more than 90 applications each – and over 100 applications for each of its engineering positions. SpaceX’s hiring tops the acceptance rates of even the most selective, elite U.S. colleges, as “only about 1% of applications result in a hire,” according to the company.

The DOJ has been investigating SpaceX since June 2020, when the department’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section received a complaint of employment discrimination from a non-U.S. citizen.

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