Blue Origin whistleblower says she lost faith in Jeff Bezos fixing the company's toxic culture

Blue Origin whistleblower says she lost faith in Jeff Bezos fixing the company's toxic culture
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos with Blue Origin's "Blue Moon" lunar lander in 2019. Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images
  • A former Blue Origin employee told Quartz the company wanted to put arbitration clauses in staff contracts.
  • She pushed back on these clauses, which preclude employees from taking companies to court, she said.
  • The company's general counsel told her arbitration was important to founder Jeff Bezos, she said.

The former Blue Origin employee who cosigned an open letter about the space firm's "toxic" work culture says she lost hope that billionaire founder Jeff Bezos could fix the problems at the company.

Alexandra Abrams was head of employee communications at Blue Origin, and put her name on an open letter - cosigned by 20 anonymous current and former employees - that said the company sacrificed safety and fostered a sexist work environment.

Speaking to Quartz, Abrams recalled that senior management at the company wanted to add binding arbitration agreements to employee contracts. These agreements preclude employees from taking companies to court, instead forcing them to resolve complaints privately.

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Blue Origin's general counsel told her the arbitration clause was important to Bezos, Abrams said in the interview with Quartz.

"The fact that I knew Jeff Bezos did this personally broke any hope I had of Jeff being the solution," Abrams said.


Abrams told Quartz she pushed back against these clauses, and that she was able to carve out an exception for sexual harassment cases.

Other companies including Uber, Google, and Airbnb have dropped some binding arbitration clauses from employee and customer contracts.

Abrams also told Quartz she signed off on contract language that included a non-disparagement clause. These clauses are designed to stop employees saying negative things about a company. The clause said that employees would have to pay for Blue Origin's legal fees if it ever chose to enforce it, Abrams said.

Blue Origin did not immediately responded when contacted by Insider for comment on Abrams' comments to Quartz. Blue Origin declined to comment on Abrams' specific allegations when contacted by Quartz.

In response to Abrams' open letter, which also said that leadership at Blue Origin ignored multiple reports of sexual harassment, Blue Origin said: "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."


Abrams denied to Quartz that she had received warnings, saying she was fired following a dispute over the use of binding arbitration for cases including sexual harassment.

Abrams said the "issues involving federal export control regulations" Blue Origin mentioned could relate to an app the company tried to build that inadvertently left data on foreign servers. Abrams said she helped report and resolve the problem.

Blue Origin has lost at least 17 top staffers this year, and multiple sources told CNBC on Friday this was the result of CEO Bob Smith's management style - in particular his insistence on employees returning to the office.