December 4, 2023

A Falcon 9 rocket will be launched in Hawthorne, California on January 28, 2021 in front of the Space Exploration Technologies Corp. headquarters. (SpaceX) issued.

Patrick T. Fallon | AFP | Getty Images

The Justice Department’s efforts to get SpaceX to comply with a subpoena for corporate hiring documents will be heard by a federal judge on March 18.

That date for the hearing was set on Monday after attorneys from SpaceX, fighting the subpoena, and the DOJ videoconference with Judge Michael Wilner for a planning session. Wilner gave SpaceX attorneys until February 26 to file a response to the subpoena requested by the DOJ. The government then had until March 12th to respond to SpaceX.

The DOJ has been investigating for months whether Elon Musk’s space company discriminates against foreigners when it is hired, court records show.

The investigation was launched by the department’s Immigration and Workers Rights division after a candidate, Fabian Hutter, complained that SpaceX discriminated against him when he asked for a technical strategy position during an interview last March his citizenship status was asked.

Hutter told CNBC that he believes SpaceX decided not to hire him after answering a question about his citizenship. Hutter has dual citizenship in Austria and Canada, but is legally permanent resident of the United States according to court records filed in the US District Court for the Central District of California.

The DOJ unit is not only investigating Hutter’s complaint, but “can also investigate whether [SpaceX] engages in a pattern or practice of discrimination “that is prohibited by federal law, as records show.

As part of that investigation, investigators issued a subpoena in October requesting SpaceX to provide information and documents related to recruitment and employability review procedures.

However, SpaceX did not fully comply with the subpoena after the DOJ received a table of employee information.

That’s why DOJ attorney Lisa Sandoval asked Wilner in a lawsuit last month to order SpaceX to comply with the request for documents.

Wilner hinted in an earlier filing that SpaceX might have a hard time blocking the subpoena, referring to an earlier decision he had made on an unrelated case.

In this other case, Wilner flatly dismissed a company’s arguments against complying with a subpoena to discontinue information.

The DOJ has declined CNBC’s request for comment on its investigation, while SpaceX has failed to respond to multiple requests for comment.

SpaceX may hire non-US citizens who hold a green card under the US International Traffic in Arms Regulations.

Known as ITAR, these rules state that only Americans or foreigners with a US green card can have physical or digital access to items on the US ammunition list, which consists of defense-related equipment, software, and other materials.

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