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SpaceX To Pay $3.9 Million In Worker Class Action Suit

| by Kathryn Schroeder

Elon Musk's SpaceX has settled a lawsuit filed by thousands of employees alleging they were underpaid.

SpaceX will pay $3.9 million dollars in the settlement, The Register reports. The settlement in the case, presided over by Los Angeles Judge Elihu M. Berle, was approved by the court at the first hearing. But one plaintiff, former SpaceX employee Howard Smith, did try to block the deal. Berle dismissed his attempt.

"I think the record is clear that Mr. Smith and his counsel had an opportunity to represent the class and they were found to be inadequate," Christina Lucio, lawyer for the workers, said in court, according to Inverse.

Smith wanted to sue SpaceX on his own, citing a California law that allows disgruntled employees to do so if they have the backing of the state, The Register reports. If the employee wins such a case, three-quarters of any payout goes to the state.

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Smith's lawyers argued in court that SpaceX was trying to settle the class action so it could pay a lower settlement to him personally. 

“We just don’t see how the settlement is fair and adequate and we don’t think the court has enough information on its hands to make that determination,” Smith's lawyer, Dalia Khalili of Matern Law Group PC, told Berle in September 2016, according to Inverse.

With the judge's dismissal of Smith's attempt to block the class action, he will be paid as part of the group settlement.

“If Mr. Smith is unhappy with this settlement he can opt out,” Berle said.

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The settlement ends a series of lawsuits brought against SpaceX between August 2014 and October 2015 that alleged shift patterns prohibited employees from taking their statutory rest periods and meal breaks. California law requires employees receive a break every four hours, and breaks for meals.

The three different lawsuits were grouped together by Berle.

Each of the 4,099 workers involved in the class action suit will receive on average $500 from the settlement, with some receiving $2,000.

The lawyers representing the plaintiffs will receive $1.3 million of the settlement, according to Inverse.

Whether the lawsuits and settlement will influence SpaceX to change its employee shift structure is unknown. Musk has said in the past that he works up to 100 hours a week. SpaceX is among the lowest-paying companies in the tech industry, according to a 2016 report by Payscale obtained by Inverse, but has a very high customer satisfaction ranking.

Sources: The Register, Inverse / Photo credit: OnInnovation/Flickr

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