Twitter employees have filed a class-action lawsuit against the company over CEO Elon Musk’s recently-announced plan to lay off half of the staff, or about 3,700 workers, with little to no notice.
The lawsuit was filed in San Francisco federal court on Thursday by five current or former employees, who say that the company was in violation of a federal law, known as the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, that requires employers to give workers advance notice of 60 days before carrying out mass layoffs.
Workers had already begun receiving notice that they were fired on Thursday — the same day that workers received notice of the layoffs in a company-wide email. The email informed employees that, on Friday, those who were keeping their jobs would be notified via their company emails, while those who were laid off would be notified through their personal emails. This is likely because, on Thursday night, workers reported losing access to their company emails and logins.
The lawsuit seeks a court order forcing Twitter to obey the WARN Act.
“We filed this lawsuit tonight in an attempt to make sure that employees are aware that they should not sign away their rights and that they have an avenue for pursuing their rights,” Shannon Liss-Riordan, an attorney who filed the lawsuit, told Bloomberg. Liss-Riordan has also sued Tesla over a similar circumstance in which Musk laid off about 10 percent of its staff.
“We will now see if he is going to continue to thumb his nose at the laws of this country that protect employees,” Liss-Riordan said. “It appears that he’s repeating the same playbook of what he did at Tesla.”
Rumors of layoffs had begun circulating this week among Twitter employees. One employee created a program that would help coworkers hold onto important documents and emails, The New York Times reported, and was later fired. Musk also made a sweeping change to employee benefits this week by removing the company’s monthly days off, known as “days of rest,” from their calendars.
If Musk’s layoffs are found to be in violation of the WARN Act, it wouldn’t be the first time he’s been in violation of federal labor laws. Tesla has been the subject of multiple lawsuits by workers who say that the company’s California warehouse is a site of constant harassment for Black and female workers, who say they face horrific racism and sexual harassment, respectively, at work.
Meanwhile, media experts have raised concerns over Musks’s plans for Twitter, especially in regard to his plans to unleash a deluge of posts from racists, anti-semites, and other members with far right ideologies onto the platform with little to no oversight, in the supposed name of free speech. The First Amendment right to free speech does not apply to private companies in this way, as private companies can moderate speech on their platforms, but Musk and the right seem to have no regard for that fact.
Musk also fired top executives at Twitter earlier this week “for cause,” seemingly in an attempt to avoid paying out severance packages — but this move may also backfire on Musk, as the executives are considering their legal options to receive compensation.