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Former Blue Origin boss sues company

December 4, 2023

By Chris Forrester

A complaint has been filed at the Los Angeles Superior Court by Craig Stoker, who was previously Blue Origin’s programme manager on their BE-4 rocket engine development, and alleging concerns over workplace safety at the Jeff Bezos-backed business. Stoker further alleges that Blue Origin had a “hostile work environment” and that there were “ethical violations” in the workplace.

The action included a comprehensive detailing of his concerns and in particular that then-CEO Bob Smith caused employees “to frequently violate safety procedures and processes in order to meet unreasonable deadlines” and that Smith would “explode” with anger when issues arose.

The writ lists 12 potential violations of California labour laws, including those covering ‘Whistleblowing’ and includes 100 ‘John Doe’ anonymous defendants, most of whom are still working at Blue Origin and who “compelled, coerced, aided, and/or abetted the discrimination, retaliation, and harassment alleged in this Complaint, which conduct is prohibited under California Government.”

Stoker alleges that he frequently raised his concerns including emails to Smith and two VPs (Linda Cova, VP of the engines business unit, and Mary Plunkett, SVP of human resources) and made a formal complaint about Smith’s behaviour.

“Myself, my leadership team and others throughout the company should not have to constantly apologise and make excuses to ourselves and our teams for the CEO’s bad behaviour,” Stoker’s email said. “We spend significant time smoothing things over, building back morale, repairing damage, stopping people from overreacting. [It is] a hostile work environment [which is] creating a safety and quality hazard for our people, products and customers.”

The giant BE-4 engines are destined for use on the United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan rockets.

Stoker was let go from the company on October 7th. Smith left the company in September.

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