SpaceX in Hot Water Over Alleged Labor Violations

A newcomer to the space transport industry is having some success launching rockets into space, but still can’t figure out how to follow California labor law.

SpaceX, a Hawthorne, CA-based company which recently won a NASA contract to launch astronauts to the International Space Station by 2017, is facing two lawsuits over alleged labor law violations. One suit alleges the company demanded employees work off the clock and without pay through meal and rest breaks because of overloaded work schedules.

California workers are entitled by law to a 30-minute meal break for every five hours on a shift. They must also receive a 10-minute break for every four hours worked.

“If those breaks are not provided, employers must pay workers an extra hour for each day they did not get a meal break and pay another hour for each day they went without a rest break,” said Sacramento business attorney Deborah Barron.

A separate lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court alleges that SpaceX laid off hundreds of workers in July without proper notice and without compensation. Both suits are asking the courts for back pay, damages and penalties.

“If the court finds in favor of the plaintiffs in either of these cases, SpaceX could face a very large penalty for its violations of California’s labor laws,” said Barron. “It may be wise for the company to settle out of court; a court could award a large sum for damages, penalties and back pay. State labor laws are there for a reason – to protect workers.”