Former interns claim SpaceX ignored sexual harassment, United States News & Top Stories

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NEW YORK (NYTIMES) – Several women who interned at SpaceX said they faced sexual harassment and unwanted advances from other interns as well as men in more senior positions across a range of workplace incidents, some of which went without punishment.

Ms Ashley Kosak, a former intern who later became a full-time engineer at SpaceX, wrote in an essay published on the website Lioness on Tuesday (Dec 14) that a male intern groped her in 2017 while she was doing dishes in company housing shared by interns.

She also said a male colleague ran his hand up her torso in 2018 at a company event.

She reported the 2017 episode that year to her manager, she said, and the 2018 episode to SpaceX’s human resources department the day after it happened.

She said she never received responses to those complaints.

“Given my tenuous position at the company, I felt powerless,” she wrote in the essay.

Ms Kosak said she reported other incidents to human resources.

In one instance, she said, she used an internal tip line that was supposed to be anonymous, but after submitting the complaint, she was contacted by human resources staff who asked her questions about the reported harassment.

She took a medical leave of absence last month and resigned from the company later in the month.

Ms Kosak’s account shared similarities with accounts from other former interns at the company.

SpaceX did not respond to requests for comment.

In the aerospace industry broadly, men outnumber women roughly eight to one.

More women have been sharing stories of sexism and harassment while on the job.

Women who work as interns and seek full-time jobs may be particularly vulnerable to harassment and other forms of discrimination, especially when anti-sexual harassment education is scant, as Ms Kosak said.

Human relations departments, including SpaceX’s, employees say, have not always been quick to discipline or terminate employees who have been the subject of an investigation.

Women at other space companies have also described discriminatory workplace dynamics.

In September, a group of 21 current and former employees of Blue Origin, the space company owned by Mr Jeff Bezos, wrote in an essay on Lioness that the company was rife with sexism and retaliated against those who speak up about safety issues.

The company has denied the accusations.