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California employees sue SpaceX for violating labor laws

Many of our readers are familiar with Elon Musk and his Hawthorne-based rocket manufacturer Space Exploration Technologies Corp. While SpaceX, as it’s known, may be focused on the future of space travel, according to recent lawsuits, its employment practices are not keeping up with current 21st century employment laws.

Former employees filed two lawsuits in Los Angeles County within one week this month. Both suits allege that the company violated labor laws.

In the first action, former employees allege that SpaceX laid off hundreds of workers last month without providing any notice or compensation. According to an Aug. 13 article on Bloomberg.com, the structural technicians claim that some 400 did not receive the 60-day written notice mandated by California law for companies with at least 75 employees who lay off at least 50 employees. The technicians say they are suing the company founded in 2002 by the man also well-known for starting Tesla Motors Inc., on behalf of all of the employees who were included in that layoff.

The second lawsuit, by a former SpaceX tool maker, involves alleged denial of legally-mandated rest and meal breaks. The plaintiff accuses SpaceX managers of giving employees workloads and schedules that required them to work “off the clock” and overtime hours without compensation. This activity, according to the suit, has been occurring for the past four years. The plaintiff also says that the company failed to provide employees with necessary tools or to reimburse them when they purchased the tools with their own money.

The plaintiff is seeking class action for this suit. The complaint also requests damages including back pay with interest and other penalties.

Many California employees don’t know what kind of meal and rest breaks they are entitled to under the law or not be aware that their employer may be guilty of violations like misclassification of employees to pay them less in wages or benefits. Even those who do know their rights sometimes feel pressured by their employers to forgo them to maintain their employment. However, employers should know what their responsibilities to their employees regarding wage and hour laws are under the law and be prepared to pay, both financially and in bad publicity, if they and those who overseeing employee don’t follow the law.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “Another former SpaceX employee sues over alleged labor law violations” Chad Garland, Aug. 12, 2014

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