back to article Blue Origin employees complain of sexist culture that ignores safety concerns

A group of 21 current and former employees of Blue Origin, Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos’s rocketry side hobby, have penned an open letter that describes the company as fostering a sexist culture, intolerant of internal dissent, and sanguine about safety. Blue Origin has said the lead author was fired, and that the letter’s …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mostly male workforce

    Probably helps explain the design of the rocket.

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Mostly male workforce

      Its quite likely that BO initially staffed up from the existing aerospace industry which -- surprise! -- will be largely white and male. Its debatable whether this is the best staffing strategy but it might have been the most appealing option after SpaceX cherry picked the serious talent.

      I have no experience working at aerospace companies ("But I know plenty of people....") but you can tell a lot about a company's hiring practices from their website. Blue Origin's website looks like any other aerospace company's (e.g. General Dynamic's). SpaceX doesn't see to bother recruiting through their website (they seem to use an active recruiting strategy). People signing on with them will be under no illusions what working there will be like -- work, more work and, as a reward for all that work, even more work. This is the culture, its not one of "I am such and such, I deserve to be a particular grade" that you find with more established companies but closer to that of a start up where everyone is directed at the one goal. Mis-hires are unlikely to last long in that environment and I'd guess (grapevine, again) that relatively inexperienced people who got all the right grades at school and uni are not necessarily going to be regarded, or rewarded, in a manner they have come to expect.

  2. Filippo Silver badge

    In 2019, the letter adds, all staff were asked to sign new contracts that included a non-disparagement clause that bound them and their heirs. Some staff contracts “mandated they pay the corporation’s legal fees if the corporation chose to sue them for breach of contract.”

    Binding the heirs? Mandating in advance who pays legal fees in case of lawsuit? Is this legal?

    1. big_D Silver badge
      Big Brother

      As the heirs never signed the documents (I assume), they can't be held legally binding to the heirs, I would have thought.

      Sounds dodgy and I don't believe such contracts would hold water over here, but I don't live in America...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        It doesn't matter if the clause is dodgy or not - Bezos & Co will go after the heirs and murder them with legal fees.... after all BO appears to be a company dedicated to suing the pants off anyone who doesn't let it have its own way; with effectively bottomless pockets they would be a formidable opponent in court..

        Anon cos who knows who might be reading this?

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Glad I have legal insurance for such things... Although my departed parents don't/didn't work for BO, so the point is moot.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Yeah, I read a non-disparagement clause that bound them and their heirs. too and my first thought was, "fuck Bezos, even you can't enforce a contract binding persons without their consent, not even in the Good 'Ol US of A".

      That has to be an outright illegal contract clause. I'm pretty sure that "sins of the father" has no bearing in most legal jurisdictions and in no civilised ones.

      Likewise, the legal costs clause. If BO sues someone over breach on contract, that same contract CANNOT force the person sued to pay BOs costs if BO loses, which is what the clause appears to be claiming.

      I know USA (like most countries) laws can be a bit weird in part, but even Bezos can't think he can get away with contract likes that. If there are more clauses of that ilk in the employment contracts, a decent lawyer could probably have thed entire contract stuck down for taking the piss, rather than the more usual legal result of just having the offending clause struck down.

  3. Potemkine! Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Big Bezos

    Slavery is Freedom.

    1. big_D Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Big Bezos

      Danger is safety

      1. Tom Chiverton 1

        Re: Big Bezos

        Rocket is not penis

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Big Bezos

          65 miles is not space

  4. Dan 55 Silver badge

    As Amazon, so Blue Origin

    Perhaps there's something toxic about Bezos?

  5. trevorde Silver badge

    Still working for Amazon

    Sexism, cronyism and a toxic work culture - Blue Origin is no different

    1. sabroni Silver badge

      Still buying from Amazon?

      Financing sexism, cronyism and a toxic work culture.

      It's hipocritical to complain about them if you use them. If you think the way they treat their workers is wrong you shouldn't fund it.

      1. marcellothearcane
        Happy

        Re: Still buying from Amazon?

        That's why I don't.

        ---->

  6. Steve Kerr
    Coat

    Say it ain't so

    Working for a Bezos owned company and not having a toxic workplace and being akin to slave labour?

    Business as usual at Blue Origin then taking Amazon corporate ethos to new heights

  7. My-Handle Silver badge

    Seems like a daft thing to do

    Leaving aside the morality of those contracts...

    Blue Origin is trying to compete in a bleeding-edge field of technology, currently from a disadvantaged position. They need the absolute best talent they can get their hands on. So why in the name of all that's holy would they inflict a contract like that on their engineers? Regardless of the level of pay, any engineer with an ounce of talent is going to jump ship at the very next opportunity.

    Of course, we only have the say-so of the letter's signatories that those claims are true... but the recent exodus of BO engineers to SpaceX does add credibility to those claims.

    1. druck Silver badge

      Re: Seems like a daft thing to do

      I get the feeling that about as many people read their employment contracts in full, as get to the end of a Microsoft EULA.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    if true

    how is this corporate behaviour different from any merkin big company. Speaking from some experience

  9. Spasticus Autisticus

    Uhh ohh

    "We stand by our safety record and believe that New Shepard is the safest space vehicle ever designed or built.”

    Please don't kill Bill

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Uhh ohh

      He needs to make sure he takes a communcator with him, so that he can get Scotty to beam him out of trouble.

      Has anyone noticed how much Bezos looks like Dr Evil?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ‘making progress for Jeff’ — seemed to take precedence over safety

    That's going to be a major problem if anything goes wrong. Pretty sure that threatening staff over raising safety concerns would get you into major trouble from the regulators if they found it to be true. It's not really a great advert for such a company anyway is it?

    "You can rely on our rockets, because we treat our staff like shit!".

  11. ridley

    Rapid progress

    Compromising safety in order to make rapid progress?

    This is Blue Origin we're talking about, right?

  12. spold Silver badge

    Well...

    "would you like to see my thruster" probably ticked both boxes

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