Blue Origin, the aerospace company founded by Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosFree speech, Whole Foods, and the endangered apolitical workplace Space: One important thing that might retain bipartisan focus Virtual realities may solve Fermi's paradox about extraterrestrials MORE, has allegedly fostered a toxic and sexist workplace culture that subjected employees to harassment, according to an essay published Thursday by a group of former and current employees.
“Workforce gender gaps are common in the space industry, but at Blue Origin they also manifest in a particular brand of sexism,” they wrote.
The public essay was published by Alexandra Abrams, the former head of Blue Origin employee communications, and 20 other unnamed employees and former employees.
The employees allege that “numerous senior leaders'' have been known to be “consistently inappropriate with women.” For example, one executive in CEO Bob Smith’s “loyal inner circle” was reported to human resources multiple times for sexual harassment, but Smith made the executive a member of the hiring committee to fill a senior human resources role in 2019, the employees wrote.
Another former executive treated women in a “condescending and demeaning manner,” referring to them with names such as “baby girl” and asking about their dating lives, according to the post. The employees said it seemed the executive was “protected by his close personal relationship with Bezos” and was let go only after physically groping a female subordinate.
A Blue Origin spokesperson said the company “has no tolerance for discrimination or harassment of any kind” and will “promptly investigate any new claims of misconduct.”
The spokesperson also said that Abrams was “dismissed for cause two years ago after repeated warnings for issues involving federal export control regulations.”
Abrams denied those claim to CBS News, saying in an interview that she was shocked when she was fired. When she asked what the reason was, her new manager told her, “Bob and I can’t trust you anymore,” referring to the company’s CEO.
“I’ve gotten far enough away from it that I’m not afraid enough to let them silence me anymore,” she said.
Alexandra Abrams, a former head of employee communications for Blue Origin, is speaking out against the company to @LaurieSegall.— CBS Mornings (@CBSMornings) September 30, 2021
“You cannot create a culture of safety and a culture of fear at the same time. They are incompatible.” pic.twitter.com/JHuFY3cjcs
In addition to issues with sexism, Abrams and other employees in the essay raised concerns related to Blue Origin’s environmental impact and safety precautions.
“What are the blind spots of an organization whose stated mission is to enable humanity’s better future, yet is rife with sexism? Blue Origin's flaws extend further, unfortunately,” they wrote.
Despite “splashy announcements” made by Bezos, the employees said they have yet to see the company establish “any concrete plans” to become carbon neutral or significantly reduce its environmental footprint.
As for safety concerns, the employees wrote there are “very few regulations” in place to ensure that safety is the company’s “top mission” as stated publicly.
Blue Origin did not address allegations related to safety and environmental impact in their statement.