A former Blue Origin engineer, Craig Stoker, has filed a lawsuit against the company, claiming it fired him because he had reported unsafe conditions caused largely because the company’s then CEO, Bob Smith, interfered with operations and insisted these unsafe conditions be hidden.
According to the complaint, Blue Origin’s contract with ULA requires the company to communicate issues that could impact rocket engine delivery one year in advance; Stoker wanted to tell ULA the engines would likely be delayed. [Ed. Delays that ended up actually happening.]
But Smith had allegedly instructed Stoker not to share these production and delivery issues with ULA.
Ultimately, after an internal investigation, Blue Origin HR concluded that Smith did not create a hostile work environment, nor violate any company policies. Stoker objected to this conclusion; the complaint says that Stoker later learned that no one from the engine program was interviewed as part of the investigation.
The complaint also notes that
Smith’s behavior caused employees “to frequently violate safety procedures and processes in order to meet unreasonable deadlines.” Smith would “explode” when issues would arise, generating a hostile work environment, the complaint says. Stoker sent a follow-up email to the two VPs — Linda Cova, VP of the engines business unit, and Mary Plunkett, senior VP of human resources — that included a formal complaint against Smith.
According to the complaint, Smith then “spearheaded” Stoker’s termination because of his refusal to sweep the safety issues under the rug.
If the accusations of this lawsuit prove true, it provides another piece of strong evidence explaining why Blue Origin went from a productive company to an utter failure after Bob Smith took over in 2017.
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