A group of former and current Blue Origin employees have accused the company of fostering a "toxic environment." In an essay written by former head of employee communications Alexandra Abrams and 20 co-authors, the group claims some senior leaders at Blue Origin "have been known to be consistently inappropriate with women."
The essay states that one executive has been reported to human resources multiple times for sexual harassment. Another former exec used condescending language to women and inappropriately enquired about their personal lives. The group says that person had a "close personal relationship" with Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos and was only removed from the company after groping a female subordinate.
"We found many company leaders to be unapproachable and showing clear bias against women," the group wrote. "Concerns related to flying New Shepard were consistently shut down, and women were demeaned for raising them." The essay details several instances of how men and women are treated differently at New Origin, such as one man receiving a going-away party after being fired and a female leader who was let go being ordered to leave the premises right away.
"The workforce dedicated to establishing this future 'for all' is mostly male and overwhelmingly white," the group said. "One-hundred percent of the senior technical and program leaders are men."
The group details other concerns, such as Blue Origin ignoring safety and environmental issues. The authors say, for instance, that despite the company's mission to "build a better world," none of them "has seen Blue Origin establish any concrete plans to become carbon neutral or significantly reduce its large environmental footprint."
They say that "professional dissent" is stifled, with CEO Bob Smith asking one of the group not to make it easy for workers to ask questions during company-wide town halls. The essay's authors state that Smith asked for a list of "troublemakers or agitators" within the company so that senior leaders could "have a talk" with those in their divisions.
On top of that, the essay makes reference to history's worst space race between Bezos, Elon Musk and Richard Branson. "Competing with other billionaires — and 'making progress for Jeff' — seemed to take precedence over safety concerns that would have slowed down the schedule," the authors claimed.
The group concluded the essay by saying that Bezos and other Blue Origin leaders should be held to account and learn how to run a company that's respectful and responsible. "In our experience, Blue Origin’s culture sits on a foundation that ignores the plight of our planet, turns a blind eye to sexism, is not sufficiently attuned to safety concerns, and silences those who seek to correct wrongs," they wrote. "That’s not the world we should be creating here on Earth and certainly not as our springboard to a better one."
A Blue Origin spokesperson sent the following statement to Engadget:
Ms. Abrams was dismissed for cause two years ago after repeated warnings for issues involving federal export control regulations. Blue Origin has no tolerance for discrimination or harassment of any kind. We provide numerous avenues for employees, including a 24/7 anonymous hotline, and will promptly investigate any new claims of misconduct.