The CEO of Jeff Bezos’ rocket company Blue Origin responded to reports that it fostered a “toxic” and sexist work environment, assuring employees that the rocket-maker has “no tolerance for discrimination or harassment.”
However, Blue Origin chief Bob Smith did not admit any wrongdoing or apologize in an email to employees on Thursday.
“It is particularly difficult and painful, for me, to hear claims being levied that attempt to characterize our entire team in a way that doesn’t align with the character and capability that I see at Blue Origin every day,” Smith wrote.
Smith’s email came hours after 21 current and former Blue Origin employees published a letter alleging that several company leaders have been “consistently inappropriate with women.” Those leaders allegedly included one senior executive within Smith’s inner circle.
“Even so, Smith personally made him a member of the hiring committee for filling a senior HR role in 2019,” the letter says, without naming the senior executive.
Many company leaders also showed a “clear bias against women,” according to the letter, which was signed by Alexandra Abrams, who worked as Blue Origin’s head of employee communications until 2019. The 20 other signatories were anonymous.
In Smith’s email, the CEO did not respond to any specific allegations but told employees “we will promptly investigate any new claims of misconduct.”
Thursday’s letter also accused senior leadership at Blue Origin of fostering a culture of “suppression of dissent” that has put safety at risk.
“Blue Origin has been lucky that nothing has happened so far,” one anonymous engineer who signed on to the letter is quoted as saying. The letter adds that “teams are stretched beyond reasonable limits.”
Blue Origin seemed to give beating Elon Musk and Richard Branson in the billionaire space race priority over safety concerns, the group added.
On Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration said it would review safety allegations raised in the employee letter.
In Smith’s email to employees, the CEO shot back at accusations that led to the FAA review.
“The New Shepard team went through a methodical and pain-staking process to certify our vehicle for First Human Flight,” wrote Smith, who has led Blue Origin since 2017. “Anyone that claims otherwise is uninformed and simply incorrect. That team is appropriately proud of the work they’ve done and we should be as well.”
Asked for comment on the FAA review of safety issues, a Blue Origin spokesperson did not comment on the FAA review but emailed a statement about Alexandra Abrams, the letter’s only named signatory.
“Ms. Abrams was dismissed for cause two years ago after repeated warnings for issues involving federal export control regulations,” the spokesperson said.
Smith signed the email with “Gradatim Ferociter,” Blue Origin’s motto and a favorite phrase of his boss, Jeff Bezos.
“Basically you can’t skip steps, you have to put one foot in front of the other, things take time, there are no shortcuts but you want to do those steps with passion and ferocity,” Bezos once said of the phrase.
Smith’s letter was provided to The Post by a Blue Origin spokesperson. It was first reported by CNBC.
Additional reporting by Will Feuer