Elon Musk, the richest man on the planet, was accused of sexual harassment by a flight attendant who was working on his aerospace firm SpaceX’s company jet in 2016, it has been revealed. His company then paid the woman $250,000 in 2018 to settle the claim, Insider has reported.
According to the investigation, Musk allegedly exposed his erect penis to the woman who was working for SpaceX as cabin crew. The billionaire also touched her legs without consent and said he’d ‘buy her a horse’ if she gave him an ‘erotic massage’, it has been alleged.
After taking a job as cabin crew on the SpaceX jet, the woman claimed she was advised to get trained as a masseuse so that she could give Musk massages while they were in the air. Musk then exposed himself and touched her without her consent during a massage in a private cabin of his Gulfstream G650ER jet, according to her declaration.
The flight attendant told her friend after the incident allegedly occurred that she was asked to give Musk a full body massage. When she got to his cabin, he was completely ‘naked’ with a sheet covering his bottom half. Once the massage had begun, she claims Musk then exposed himself and said he would buy the woman (who is a horse rider) a horse if she was willing to ‘do more’.
According to the woman’s friend, the flight attendant planned to go back to work as normal and pretend that the incident had never happened. But she soon began to feel that her shifts were being cut back after she denied Musk’s alleged advances: ‘She was being punished for refusing to prostitute herself,’ the friend claimed to Insider.
After becoming increasingly sure that her career prospects were being diminished, the woman hired a lawyer in 2018 to send a complaint to SpaceX’s HR team. She was then invited to a meeting with Musk and a mediator where they entered a severance agreement. The flight attendant was granted $250,000 by SpaceX in exchange for the guarantee that she wouldn’t sue.
'She was being punished for refusing to prostitute herself.'
As part of the deal, the woman also agreed to restrictive non-disclosure and non-disparagement clauses which meant she could never discuss the $250,000 payment or disclose any information about Musk and his various businesses to anyone but her spouse, therapist, or lawyer. Essentially, it’s a document designed to silence.
The story has come to light as the flight attendant’s friend, who is a survivor of sexual assault, went to reporters with the story. Unlike the woman who was allegedly propositioned by Musk, the flight attendant’s friend isn’t restricted by the NDA.
‘He is the richest man in the world. Someone with that level of power causing that kind of harm and then throwing money at the situation, that’s not accountability,’ she said. ‘There are predators all over the world. But when someone is particularly wealthy and powerful, they literally have systems that are like a machine working for them.’
90% of women who signed an NDA after they experienced sex discrimination felt they had absolutely no choice but to sign, research has shown. Meanwhile, 78% said that NDAs were repeatedly used in their workplace to silence women.
Nobody knows exactly how many NDAs are used each year because, due to their nature, they’re not disclosed to anyone. Commonly, they’re seen as a gagging clause and in California, where SpaceX is based, the state doesn’t allow companies to include NDA clauses in contracts like the one signed by the flight attendant.
Musk has denied the allegations and confidently told Insider: ‘If I were inclined to engage in sexual harassment, this is unlikely to be the first time in my entire 30-year career that it comes to light.’
The billionaire also claimed reporters were publishing the piece for ‘politically motivated’ reasons and said the story should be called Elongate: 'Nothing will deter me from fighting for a good future and your right to free speech,' he wrote on Twitter (the website he's currently buying).
This is the first allegation or settlement for sexual misconduct associated with Musk himself. However, SpaceX and Tesla have had numerous allegations of sexual harassment filed against them. In December 2021, four women (one bound by an NDA) claimed they’d faced sexual harassment, including groping and inappropriate touching, at SpaceX.
Meanwhile, six women have also sued Tesla for sexual harassment at the brand's factory, where they claim male employees stare at women so intensely that they were forced to wear baggy clothes and barricade themselves behind boxes while they worked.
Grazia has contacted Elon Musk’s representatives for comment.