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SpaceX settles $3.9m shift pattern class action lawsuit

Workers couldn't take their legally mandated breaks

By Gareth Corfield, 11 May 2017

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has agreed pay out nearly $4m to thousands of underpaid employees – yet one of them is curiously annoyed with his court-backed windfall.

Los Angeles judge Elihu M. Berle gave his court’s backing to SpaceX’s settlement of the class-action lawsuit after first hearing, and dismissing, the objections of former SpaceX man Howard Smith, who was attempting to block the deal.

The settlement brings an end to several lawsuits brought over the last few years alleging that SpaceX’s shift patterns meant workers could not take their statutory rest periods and meal breaks. Each worker will receive an average of $500, with the highest payouts being $2,000 per person.

Christina Lucio, lawyer for the 4,099 other people represented in the class action suit, told the court: “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.”

Smith had been trying to sue SpaceX himself under a Californian law that allows disgruntled employees to launch a lawsuit themselves with the backing of the state – but three-quarters of any payout goes to the state’s coffers in return, according to legal site Law360.

His lawyers argued in response to Lucio that SpaceX was trying to settle the class action suit in order to pay a lower settlement to him personally.

The judge dismissed this and approved the $3.9m settlement to all class action claimants, including Smith. ®

The Register - Independent news and views for the tech community. Part of Situation Publishing