SpaceX engineer alleges sexual harassment at work

Repeated incidents went ignored even when reported to supervisors, HR and the ethics tip line, a former SpaceX worker alleges.

Corinne Reichert Senior Editor
Corinne Reichert (she/her) grew up in Sydney, Australia and moved to California in 2019. She holds degrees in law and communications, and currently writes news, analysis and features for CNET across the topics of electric vehicles, broadband networks, mobile devices, big tech, artificial intelligence, home technology and entertainment. In her spare time, she watches soccer games and F1 races, and goes to Disneyland as often as possible.
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Corinne Reichert
2 min read

Elon Musk's SpaceX is "so rife with sexism, the only remedy is for women to leave," a former engineer has alleged in an essay published Tuesday. Ashley Kosak, former mission integration engineer at SpaceX, says nothing was ever done by the company after she made multiple complaints about sexual harassment in the workplace.

In a piece published on Lioness, which in September printed a similar essay about Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, by former employee Alexandra Abrams, Kosak said she began experiencing sexual harassment a few weeks after starting as an intern in 2017, and had experienced it continually since then.

Kosak recounted being touched without consent, stared at, asked out, messaged on her personal Instagram account and called at 4 a.m. One co-worker even showed up at her house, Kosak said, but nothing was ever done, even after she'd reported the various incidents of sexual harassment to colleagues, superiors, supervisors, HR and the company's ethics and compliance tip line while working at the Cape Canaveral, Florida, SpaceX location.

"I was told that matters of this nature were too private to openly discuss with the perpetrators," wrote Kosak, who said she also faced gender and race bias. "I presented ideas for a standardized framework for penalizing sexual harassers to HR, as they had not implemented any remedies; those ideas went unresponded to ... Each and every man who harassed me was tolerated despite the company's so-called no-tolerance and no-asshole policy."

SpaceX didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Kosak's essay. Other former interns have since spoken out about similar experiences, according to The Verge, which spoke with four unnamed women.

Kosak alleged that Musk also overworks his employees "to the brink of burnout," and then tells them "their efforts will never be adequate."

"Elon Musk's behavior bears a remarkable similarity to the behavior of a sadistic and abusive man who had previously been part of my life," Kosak alleged. "Elon makes promises he doesn't hold himself accountable to, shifts the goalpost constantly, unnecessarily strips resources from people. ... Misogyny is rampant."

Kosak said she stayed at SpaceX for several years because it "spoke to everything I dreamed of as a first-generation American and woman in STEM: the chance to be part of a team that does the impossible and makes history, the hope of financial security, the creation of intergenerational wealth through sheer hard work."

Kosak said the stress caused by working at SpaceX resulted in her taking a medical leave of absence last month "due to panic attacks that gave me heart palpitations." She then quit the company.

The news follows Musk's Tesla being hit with a lawsuit last month alleging sexual harassment at a Tesla factory, and the filing Tuesday of several more lawsuits against Tesla.