Elon Musk’s chaotic takeover of Twitter has consumed the news—and the Twittersphere—for weeks now. Musk’s “free speech absolutist” position invited controversy over the limits of free speech and the ethical obligations of social media companies. Musk also attracted attention when he changed his mind on purchasing the social media behemoth, before finally agreeing to abide by his initial promise to purchase it for $44 billion. Now Musk has garnered negative publicity for potentially violating certain employment protections for Twitter’s workers, leading to a series of lawsuits.
Musk’s Chaotic Employment Decisions
Only days after taking Twitter’s helm, Musk ordered numerous executives to be terminated. He originally planned on firing them before they could receive annual bonuses, set to be handed out within mere days, but eventually decided against it when he learned waiting could prove less costly. He did, however, fire four top executives “for cause,” leading them to miss out on severance pay and unvested stock awards totaling more than $122 million.
Musk then ordered half of Twitter’s workers to be terminated. One manager was so shaken by having to fire so many people he vomited into a trash can. Days later, Musk sent an email to all remaining Twitter employees indicating that, if they wanted to remain at the company, they would have to click a link affirming they are “extremely hardcore” and open to “working long hours at high intensity.”
Twitter Now Facing Lawsuits
As a result of Musk’s actions, Twitter is facing a barrage of employment lawsuits from former employees, arising out of various claims. The company could be facing several millions of dollars in legal damages and fees.
Some of the legal filings may be due to severance payouts that select top executives, including the CEO, were denied. These executives may also have claims for breach of contract if the company violated any employment agreements with them.
There is currently a class-action lawsuit claiming that Twitter failed to abide by the WARN Act, which requires providing workers with a 60-day notice before any mass layoffs. Musk, of course, provided little to no notice for his abrupt terminations, exposing the company to liability.
Some lawsuits have claimed disability discrimination. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that employers provide “reasonable accommodations” for disabled employees so they may be fully integrated into the American workforce. Abruptly changing working conditions to require “working long hours at high intensity” with no provision of accommodations for disabled workers could form the basis of a legal claim.
Shortly after his Twitter takeover Musk tweeted, “the bird is freed.” With Twitter bleeding employees left, right, and center—and likely hemorrhaging money in legal fees—the bird may have been freed, but it’s unclear how much longer it will be flying.