Jeff Bezos just can’t walk away from manpower issues. The besieged billionaire, who has faced repeated and persistent criticism of working conditions at the company he previously ran Amazon, now faces allegations of a hostile work environment at his space company Blue Origin .
An essay co-composed by 21 current and former employees paints a vivid picture of Blue Origin’s work culture as one tainted with sexual harassment, in which professional disagreements are hushed up, environmental concerns are ignored and speeded up. execution takes precedence over human security.
The only named author of the essay is Alexandra Abrams, who worked at Blue Origin for two years and six months, according to her LinkedIn profile. Abrams eventually became the employee communications manager during her tenure at the company. “I would tell Jeff that I really wish he was the person we all thought he was, and that Blue Origin was the company we all thought it was going to be,” she said. in an interview with CBS Morning Thursday.
Alexandra Abrams, former head of employee communications at Blue Origin, protests against the company for @LaurieSegall.
“You can’t create a culture of safety and a culture of fear at the same time. They are incompatible. pic.twitter.com/JHuFY3cjcs
– CBS Mornings (@CBSMornings) September 30, 2021
In a statement to TechCrunch, a spokesperson for Blue Origin said Abrams “was fired for cause two years ago after repeated warnings over issues involving federal export control regulations.”
“Blue Origin has no tolerance for discrimination or harassment of any kind,” added the spokesperson. “We provide many opportunities for employees, including an anonymous 24/7 hotline, and will promptly investigate any new misconduct complaints. “
Federal export control regulations restrict the export of certain goods and technology outside of the United States. At the time of publication, Blue Origin has not made any further details regarding Abrams’ departure from the company.
The essay couldn’t have been released at a worse time for Blue Origin, which is currently mired in a lawsuit against NASA over the agency’s award of a single lunar lander contract to SpaceX. Blue Origin, which submitted its own bid, has since been on the offensive, challenging the contract on social media and at a major government accountability office. This office dismissed Blue’s complaint.
The essay alleges that security has taken a back seat in the so-called billionaire space race, marked this summer by two orbit trips by Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic and Bezos himself in July. The trial further claims that business leaders expressed a goal of achieving more than 40 launches of BO’s New Shepard spacecraft per year – a breakneck pace that the essay’s writers said didn’t match. staff and available resources.
“In the opinion of an engineer who signed this trial, ‘Blue Origin has been lucky that nothing has happened so far,'” says the trial. “A lot of the authors of this essay say they wouldn’t fly a Blue Origin vehicle.”
A series of accusations detailed in the letter also allege a culture of sexism among many senior executives, including a member of CEO Bob Smith’s “loyal inner circle” who the essay says has been repeatedly reported to human resources. for sexual harassment.
The essay states that women in the company would warn new hires about inappropriate behavior from another senior manager, which included learning about the love lives of employees and referring to them using diminutives like “sweetheart.” Or “little girl”.
“It dawned on many of us that he was protected by his close personal relationship with Bezos – he had to physically grope a subordinate for him to finally be released,” says the essay.
It’s hard to imagine that this trial didn’t affect Blue Origin’s results. After New Shepard’s successful launch in August, in which Bezos and three others flew into space on an eleven-minute flight, the company intends to start welcoming more paying customers on the flights.
The fact that the majority of letter writers chose to remain anonymous could be explained, at least in part, by the stifling new contracts employees were asked to sign in 2019, which included no-denigration clauses, according to the test.
The letter appears to have caught the attention of the Federal Aviation Administration, which told TechCrunch, “The FAA takes every safety claim seriously and the agency is reviewing the information. “
TechCrunch has contacted Blue Origin regarding the other allegations in the letter and will update the story if they respond.