Workers at Blue Origin, Bezos’s rocket company, allege sexism, safety risks

Science

A group of more than 20 current and former employees are accusing Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin rocket ship company of having a toxic work environment and not adhering to proper safety protocols.

Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket launches on July 20, 2021 with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and three other passengers aboard. A group of more than 20 current and former employees are accusing Blue Origin rocket ship company of having a toxic work environment and not adhering to proper safety protocols.(Tony Gutierrez/The Associated Press)

A group of more than 20 current and former employees are accusing Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin rocket ship company of having a toxic work environment and not adhering to proper safety protocols.

The workers claim in an essay posted on the Lioness storytelling platform that there's sexism at the Kent, Wash., space flight services company set up by the Amazon founder. It's one of only two stories posted on Lioness.co, founded in 2020, which says it posts articles on topics connected to larger social issues and exposing wrongdoing.

The Blue Origin employees, led by former head of employee communications Alexandra Abrams, state that "numerous senior leaders have been known to be consistently inappropriate with women."

They also claim that many company leaders were "unapproachable" and showed clear bias against women.

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There were also safety concerns, with the group stating that Blue Origin seemed more focused on beating billionaires Richard Branson and Elon Musk to space rather than tackling safety issues that would have slowed down the schedule.

Bezos blasted into space on July 21, the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, a date he selected for its historical significance. Bezos held fast to it, even as Virgin Galactic's Richard Branson pushed up his own flight from New Mexico and beat him to space by nine days.

The group said that last year company leaders seemed impatient with New Shepard rocket's schedule of a few flights per year, instead wanting more than 40.

"Some of us felt that with the resources and staff available, leadership's race to launch at such a breakneck speed was seriously compromising flight safety," they said.

Blue Origin said in a statement that it has no tolerance for any kind of harassment or discrimination and that it stands by its safety record. The company said it believes "New Shepard is the safest space vehicle ever designed or built."

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