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Ex-SpaceX Engineer Shares a Similar Story to That of Cristina Balan

Cristina Balan is a Romanian engineer fighting to prove Tesla defamed her. She says Tesla provides a misogynistic work environment that tries to demote female engineers. According to Ashley Kosak, SpaceX is not very different apart from the sexual harassment she has suffered ever since joining Elon Musk’s rocket company.
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Kosak wrote a text about her experience at SpaceX for Lioness, a storytelling platform that helps ordinary people tell their stories about their encounters with power. Be careful with the link for the NFT work that aims to raise funds on that page: it has malicious software that our antivirus helped us avoid. Kosak’s encounter relates to discovering how Elon Musk conducts his companies. The engineer does not have good words to describe Times’ Person of the Year.

In Kosak’s words, Musk reminded her “of a sadistic and abusive man who had previously been part of my life.” She said he would make “promises he doesn’t hold himself accountable to,” something that caused Cristina Balan to leave Tesla.

Balan said that when Musk ordered people to get directly in touch with him to report problems with the company, she believed that and sent him an email message to report safety issues with the Model S and promiscuous relationships with suppliers. Balan said she was forced to resign a while later. In her arbitration against the company, she won most allegations apart from the retaliation accusation.

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Kosak also said that Musk “shifts the goalpost constantly, unnecessarily strips resources from people who are working themselves to the brink of burnout, and then sends threatening messages to remind them that their efforts will never be adequate.”

To make matters worse, she also had to cope with colleagues sexually harassing her with no response from HR. It started as soon as she joined SpaceX when another intern grabbed her butt in the intern housing while she was washing her dishes. Kosak said that SpaceX never punished this guy.

The engineer reports at least five situations where she or other colleagues had to face sexual harassment situations. The HR department never took any measures until she used what she thought was an anonymous tool to denounce these situations. Kosak discovered that “it was actually a Microsoft form that allows the admins to see the submitter’s identity.”

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A week later, SpaceX’s HR department confronted her “with invasive questions regarding the nature of the harassment.” In other words, she became the investigated person, not the person that had that inappropriate behavior.

In November, her psychiatrist recommended that she took a leave of absence due to panic attacks. SpaceX’s HR department kept calling her, asking to talk. Kosak presumes that the idea was to have her sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) “in exchange for money.”

Sadly, Kosak endured because she thought SpaceX was one of the few places in which she could deal with rocket science. She loved working with that. Kosak and her teammates were told they “could change the world, and every time we met a goal, it felt like all this pain, distrust, and sacrifice was worth it.”

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In the end, she started asking: “What will life on Elon’s Mars be like? Probably much like life at SpaceX. Elon uses engineers as a resource to be mined rather than a team to be led. The health of Earth is rarely a consideration in the company’s projects. Misogyny is rampant.” Balan would tell Kosak that’s also the case at Tesla.

Kosak is not the only person accusing companies run by Elon Musk of not preventing sexual harassment adequately. Erica Cloud, an assembly line worker at Fremont, is now suing Tesla because her manager would have hugged and massaged her without her consent. Cloud also accuses Tesla of not doing enough to prevent similar cases. Jessica Barraza made identical allegations in another lawsuit filed in November.

Instead of making jokes about TITS (Texas Institute of Technology & Science), Musk could spend his time creating a better working environment in his companies. Not only for women but also for the African American workers that have taken Tesla to courts twice and won their cases against the company. It would be time well spent.



 
 
 
 
 

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