Female SpaceX Employee Sues Company Alleging Discrimination, Retaliation

Estimated read time 3 min read

A female SpaceX employee accused the rocket company of discrimination and retaliation in a new lawsuit filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The employee, Michelle Dopak, said in the lawsuit that SpaceX paid her less than male staffers and refused to promote her.

Dopak, a SpaceX production coordinator, also said in the suit that her married manager forced her into a quid-pro-quo sexual relationship that began in 2019 and eventually led to a pregnancy. She said SpaceX retaliated against her when she reported the affair after her manager left the company in 2022, according to the suit.

Dopak said in the suit that in 2020, her manager offered her $100,000 to have an abortion, which she declined. She is suing the company for an unspecified amount of damages. Reuters was first to report the existence of the lawsuit.

Dopak accused SpaceX of colluding with her former manager by allowing him to transfer $3.7 million in SpaceX stock out of his name to evade child support payments, according to the lawsuit obtained by Business Insider.

Business Insider was unable to contact the former manager.

A representative for SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment from BI.

The lawsuit also accuses top SpaceX executives, including COO Gwynn Shotwell, of ignoring complaints of gender-based discrimination. Dopak alleged that in August of 2018, she and two other female employees on her team felt the need to bring a list of their accomplishments and projects to Shotwell to try to prove their worth and disprove rumors being spread about them by male employees.

“However, despite their complaints, no actions were taken by Shotwell or SpaceX,” the suit states.

Also included in the 40-page lawsuit are Dopak’s allegations that she was passed over for promotions in favor of external male applicants, paid less than her male colleagues, and was the recipient of ongoing harassment and discrimination by the company in the aftermath of her pregnancy.

Dopak said the company is currently trying to get her to quit by piling on work and ignoring her workplace accommodations, according to the lawsuit.

An attorney for Dopak did not immediately respond to a request for comment from BI.

SpaceX is fighting another lawsuit following the filing of a proposed class action lawsuit in October that alleges women and minority workers are underpaid at the company. The civil rights arm of the Justice Department has also filed suit against SpaceX alleging discrimination against asylees and refugees.

Last month, Bloomberg obtained California civil rights complaints that revealed former SpaceX employees are accusing executives at the company of joking about sexual harassment and firing employees who reported their concerns. 

The company has denied wrongdoing in previous cases brought by former workers.