Jury Clears SpaceX of Wrongdoing in Firing of Employee

A jury on Wednesday cleared Space Exploration Technologies Corp. of any wrongdoing in a lawsuit brought by an ex-employee, who alleged he was retaliated against and ultimately fired for raising concerns about rocket testing procedures and safety.

The Los Angeles Superior Court panel deliberated for about three hours before rejecting Jason Blasdell's claims that he had a reasonable belief that SpaceX was falsifying its rocket testing data.

In his lawsuit filed in April 2016, Blasdell said he received positive reviews from management while working at the rocket and spacecraft manufacturer's Hawthorne headquarters as an avionics test technician from 2010 until his 2014 firing.

He said he began seeing safety issues related to the testing procedures of rocket parts, leading him to question the quality of the testing and the risks it posed for not just the rockets potentially exploding, but for the potential loss of human life.

Blasdell claimed he complained to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, company President Gwynne Shotwell and to the firm's human resources department, alleging there were potentially dangerous deviations from protocol that his managers were pressuring test technicians to make.

"Musk accompanied Blasdell to his desk to watch a demonstration of the problems," Blasdell's lawyers stated in their court papers. "He also asked Blasdell to summarize his concerns and follow up with him."

Shotwell told Blasdell during an October 2013 meeting that she would investigate his concerns and hire an outside consultant to investigate, according to the plaintiff's court papers.

Blasdell says he followed up in early 2014 when he inquired of Shotwell by email whether the consultant had been hired.

"Ms. Shotwell never responded to plaintiff's inquiry, but instead wrote a separate email to plaintiff criticizing the manner in which plaintiff communicated with management," according to Blasdell's court papers, which say he was fired in April 2014 for being "disruptive."

In their court papers, SpaceX attorneys called Blasdell's lawsuit "baseless." SpaceX attorney Lynne Hermle said there was no evidence Blasdell was reporting any violation of any laws.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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