Former SpaceX engineer accuses company of racial discrimination, denying its claims that he was fired for making inappropriate facial expressions

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule on the launch pad in Florida.
A SpaceX rocket and capsule at Cape Canaveral, Florida, in early November.
  • A former SpaceX engineer accused the company of racial discrimination in a lawsuit.
  • Ajay Reddy filed a lawsuit against the founder of Elon Musk's company earlier this month.
  • He alleged he was paid "substantially" less than his colleagues and suffered severe harassment.

A former SpaceX engineer in Florida has accused the company of racial discrimination, alleging that other employees in the same role were given training and documentation unavailable to him.

Ajay Reddy filed a lawsuit against Elon Musk's space-exploration company in federal District Court in Orlando earlier this month. The court issued a summons to the company on Tuesday.

The complaint accused SpaceX of race discrimination, national origin discrimination, retaliation, and breach of contract.

Reddy, who identifies himself in the lawsuit as Asian-American of Indian descent, alleged that he was fired from his role as a fairing recovery engineer in May 2020.

Reddy said he also filed a complaint with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Florida Commission on Human Relations in June 2020.

According to SpaceX's position statement to the EEOC, Reddy's final manager, Robert Hill, terminated his employment based on claims that during a group interview event, Reddy made facial expressions in response to answers the candidate provided. SpaceX claimed that these alleged expressions made the candidate "feel uncomfortable."

Reddy's complaint alleged, however, that "throughout his time at SpaceX, he was subjected to pervasive and severe harassment, including (but not limited to) wanton ridicule, intimidation, interference with his performance, and false statements about his performance."

Reddy's attorney and SpaceX did not respond to Insider's request for comment.

The former engineer worked alongside two white engineers, who were hired before him on the fairing recovery program, according to the lawsuit. The recovery program recovered large pieces of launched rockets.

Reddy alleged in his complaint that he and his two colleagues were initially unfamiliar with the program, given its newness. But one of his counterparts received several days of training in California, while the other had access to engineers who designed the fairing system, Reddy alleged.

But Reddy claimed that when he asked for similar training, he was denied access, according to his lawsuit. Reddy felt "humiliated and isolated, and his work performance was sabotaged," as a result, according to the lawsuit.

Reddy alleged that his two counterparts, who were named in the lawsuit, made costly errors that "ruined millions of dollars of equipment," but they weren't punished, the lawsuit said. Reddy's complaint said he was punished for similar mistakes.

"Management unjustifiably blamed incidents and failures on Plaintiff while protecting [his colleagues,] no matter how poor their performance," the lawsuit continued.

Reddy also alleged that SpaceX discriminated against him by "paying him a substantially lower compensation package to perform the same job duties as similarly situated non-Asian engineers."

The lawsuit claims that he suffered "economic loss, mental pain and suffering, extreme emotional stress, and loss of ability to lead a normal life," as a result of his experience at SpaceX.

Reddy seeks costs of legal and expert fees, as well as another other reasonable relief deemed appropriate by the court.

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