Elon Musk has been nothing but bad news since he brought a sink into Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters. And he might’ve just broken the law (again).
On Friday, November 4th, Twitter gutted its workforce of 7,500 employees in half. About 3,700 employees were laid off. They found out in a very Hunger Games-like name drawing: checking if an email from HR was sent to either their personal or professional email accounts by 9 a.m. yesterday. If the email was inboxed inside either work address… Congrats, they have employment! If it was sent to their personal email address…. Whelp, it was (likely) a termination notice.
Jonathan K., a former Twitter employee who worked in partners and goods, told Underscore_SF that “tweeps” — the nickname given to Twitter employees — signed on to Slack channels Thursday night to see if they still had access to the internal channels. Many noticed they did not; that finding coincided with an email from HR they opened from their personal accounts the following morning.
8:59am notification pic.twitter.com/6khGyy9sac
— parker lyons (@tweetsbyparker) November 4, 2022
“The way this whole thing has taken a hit on my mental health can’t be understated enough,” K. says.
“I’ve been basically living in a constant state of fight-or-flight for the past few months ever since it was announced Musk was buying Twitter and made promises he was going to fire a lot of [Twitter employees],” K. continues. “At first, I thought ‘no way, he’s just bluffing,’ but when I got an email announcing the layoffs this week, I knew it wasn’t. My whole team couldn’t work. But we were glad we went into the office Friday… because it would be the last time for some of us — like me.”
“It’s just so fucked up,” K. concludes, saying that the “next steps” to secure severance and medical insurance coverages are expected to begin next week.
According to reports published by Gizmodo, Twitter’s entire Ethical AI team was removed, according to former staff. As for Twitter’s communications team? It too was almost entirely laid off, per the New York Times.
These actions came in tandem with Musk’s request for staff to find $1 billion annually in savings from infrastructure costs; hosting servers and cloud services will be affected, which the reports from Gizmodo warn puts the social media utility at risk and puts a strain on Twitter during high traffic events.
But Musk’s handling of Twitter’s mass layoff is more than just inhuman. It’s also likely illegal, at least for those employees who worked in California.
Lisa Bloom, a trial lawyer who fish for “victims of discrimination, harassment, and abuse,” published a phenomenal Twitter thread explaining (in eye-opening detail) how mass layoffs like these violate CA’s WARN law that requires any company letting off 50 or more employees over a 30-day period to inform the entire workforce prior to terminations.
Hey Twitter employees getting laid off tomorrow! IMPORTANT INFO from a CA employment attorney (me):
CA's "WARN" law requires Twitter to give you 60 days notice of a massive layoff.
A layoff of 50+ employees within a 30 day period qualifies.
I know you didn't get that notice.
— Lisa Bloom (@LisaBloom) November 4, 2022
“I know you didn’t get that notice,” Bloom went on to include in a tweet.
Companies that violate WARN Act face civil penalties of $500/day for each violation until resolutions have been agreed upon by affected parties. As Bloom noted, with the 3,700 tweeps let go, such fines “could be significant, though maybe not to Elon.”
Moreover: Workers laid off in violation of CA’s WARN Act are able to receive back pay for each day of the violation, as well as for benefits provided under an employee benefit plan. The Employment Development Department of the State of California notes that an employer is liable for up to 60 days back pay maximum, but not more than “one-half the number of days the employee was employed by the employer.”
“Twitter would also be liable for workers’ medical expenses that would have been covered under an employee benefit plan,” Bloom tweeted.
Twitter employees, DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING when you're laid off.
Consult with an attorney first.
Buried in the fine print may be a waiver of your rights under CA and federal law.
Those rights are important and valuable!#TwitterLayoffs
— Lisa Bloom (@LisaBloom) November 4, 2022
It’s rumored that Musk’s intended severance package for employees will include at least three months of severance, though, in order to accept the package, workers must sign a formal separation agreement, as well as a claim release that states employees will drop or not pursue legal complaints against Twitter — leaving them unable to hold Twitter accountable for violating the WARN Act.
“Twitter employees, DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING when you’re laid off,” Bloom states in closing. “Consult with an attorney first.”
Words worth heeding — and a thread worth reading through, for sure.