SpaceX settled a class action lawsuit for $4 million in which 4,100 employees alleged that the company refused to let employees take government mandated breaks during long workdays.
A full third of the settlement or $1.3 million will go to the legal team leading the suit while the remaining balance will go directly to employees. The employees will be compensated based on their estimated personal impact ranging from $500 to $2,000 per person.
The suit came to light when three different suits filed from 2014 to 2015 were bundled together by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu M. Berle. Individual plaintiffs within the suit attempted to block the settlement, instead pushing for higher individual settlements but were denied. The settlement is not a windfall for SpaceX employees but will serve to compensate them for the allegedly denied breaks, and set a stake in the sand for more employee-friendly policy at SpaceX moving forward.
California employment law requires employees to be given the opportunity to take rest breaks every four hours of consecutive work, in addition to taking breaks for meals. The suit was based on a shift schedule change at SpaceX which did not allow for employees to take these breaks. Employers can work around these regulations but must have consent from its employees which the suit said SpaceX did not.
The suit is the latest in a series of spats Musk’s companies are having with employees as they seek to strike the balance between Musk’s desire to keep internal costs down and productivity high while at the same time, pushing employees to their limits during periods of massive expansion and innovation. This focus has positioned both Tesla and SpaceX to become two of the most meaningful places to work at, but at the expense of having low pay, relative to other companies within the tech sector, and high stress.
Most recently, the United Auto Workers union was rebuffed by Tesla after the company posted a blog post touting Tesla’s safety-first focus that stretches beyond the driver and into the working environment at its factories.
SpaceX and Tesla rated most meaningful work in high tech. Also, most stressful, but that goes with the territory. https://t.co/y8s4UdMF5z
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 6, 2016
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