Twitter employees filed a class-action lawsuit against the company over new owner Elon Musk’s plan to cut roughly half of the company’s workforce starting Friday, arguing it violates U.S. federal and California state law.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in a San Francisco federal court, asks the court to issue an order requiring Twitter to obey the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. The act restricts companies from performing mass layoffs without at least 60 days of advanced notice. It also seeks to restrict Twitter from soliciting employees to sign documents that could give up their right to participate in litigation.
Since Musk took over Twitter, the company has been in turmoil. Workers were assigned to Musk projects and forced to work long hours and weekends under threat of being fired if they didn’t meet tight deadlines. At the same time, team leaders were asked to draw up lists of employees that could be cut. A letter sent to employees on November 3rd warned them that they would receive an email by 9am PST/12pm ET on November 4th about their future at the company.
However, some employees have already started losing access to internal systems like email and Slack channels. That includes some of those assigned to Musk projects. Other employees took to Twitter to share updates about their status or post support under the hashtag ‘#OneTeam.’
Yep, the team is gone. The team that was researching and pushing for algorithmic transparency and algorithmic choice. The team that was studying algorithmic amplification. The team that was inventing and building ethical AI tooling and methodologies. All that is gone.
— Joan Deitchman (@JoanDeitchman) November 4, 2022
“We filed this lawsuit tonight in an attempt the make sure that employees are aware that they should not sign away their rights and that they have an avenue for pursuing their rights,” attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan told Bloomberg. Liss-Riordan filed the lawsuit against Twitter, but was also behind a lawsuit against Tesla, another Musk company, for laying off about 10 percent of its workforce in June.
However, Tesla won a ruling from a federal judge in Austin, Texas, that forced the workers to pursue their claims in closed-door arbitration rather than in open court. Musk called the lawsuit “trivial” during an interview.
“We will now see if he is going to continue to thumb his nose at the laws of this country that protect employees. It appears that he’s repeating the same playbook of what he did at Tesla,” Liss-Riordan said.
Musk’s Twitter cuts are part of an ongoing effort to reduce costs and squeeze profit from the social network after his acquisition saddled the company with some $13 billion USD (about $17.6 billion CAD) of debt. Musk’s other plans include increasing the cost of Twitter Blue to $8/mo USD, making verification a paid feature, and adding paywalled video.
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