SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell sent a company-wide email last week responding to a report of allegations of sexual assault against CEO Elon Musk, claiming she doesn’t believe the allegations to be true. The email, first reported by CNBC and reviewed by The Verge, also reiterated that SpaceX has a “ZERO tolerance” policy for harassment.
“Personally, I believe the allegations to be false; not because I work for Elon, but because I have worked closely with him for 20 years and never seen nor heard anything resembling these allegations,” Shotwell wrote in the email. “Anyone who knows Elon like I do, knows he would never conduct or condone this alleged inappropriate behavior.”
Last week, Business Insider published a report alleging that SpaceX had paid a former company flight attendant $250,000 after she accused Musk of exposing himself and propositioning her while giving him a massage. Musk has since denied the allegations, though he told Insider that there is “a lot more to this story” while also calling the article a “politically motivated hit piece.”
“If I were inclined to engage in sexual harassment, this is unlikely to be the first time in my entire 30-year career that it comes to light,” Musk told Business Insider.
In her email to company employees, titled “The recent news story,” Shotwell argued that “every accusation of harassment is taken very seriously, regardless of who is involved” and that SpaceX HR investigates all the claims it receives. She did not mention the alleged $250,000 payment. “For privacy reasons I will never comment on any legal matters involving employment issues,” Shotwell wrote.
SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment by The Verge in time for publication.
SpaceX has a “no A-hole” policy when it comes to employee behavior. However, in December, a former SpaceX employee wrote an essay in Lioness alleging she had been the target of rampant sexual harassment at the company and that HR did little to address her claims. The Verge also spoke with four additional former SpaceX employees who backed up the essay and described a culture of sexual harassment that was poorly handled by HR.
A few days prior to the essay’s publication, Shotwell emailed SpaceX employees about the company’s “zero-tolerance” policy against harassment and “no A-hole policy.” She also encouraged employees to come forward if they had experienced harassment.
“Timely reporting of harassment is key to our maintaining SpaceX as a great place to work; we can’t fix what we don’t know,” Shotwell wrote in the email sent in December. “If you are aware of, or experience any acts of harassment or discrimination, report it to your manager or any HR representative.”
However, she noted that the company could improve its HR practices. “We also know we can always do better,” Shotwell wrote in the December email. “That is why HR has been soliciting feedback from groups across the company to ensure the process is effective. HR will also conduct an internal audit, followed by a third-party audit.”