Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk faces a series of legal actions shortly after taking over – Copyright AFP CHRISTOF STACHE
Julie JAMMOT with Thomas URBAIN in New York
The Twitter purge launched by Elon Musk when he took over the company sidelined more than half of its 7,500 employees and now many of them are taking the SpaceX and Tesla mogul to court.
The social media giant is facing a growing number of cases over the terms of those layoffs, including a complaint to the city of San Francisco that Musk has illegally converted office space into dormitories so workers can sleep in. .
“It is very worrying that the richest man in the world thinks that he can bypass the rights of employees and not have to follow the law. We intend to hold him accountable,” attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan said.
Liss-Riordan is leading one such case against Twitter: In essence, arguing that some employees are not receiving the severance pay and compensation they were promised before the Musk acquisition.
These guarantees, which included bonuses and stock options, were made to keep employees on Twitter, guaranteeing an exit package as the arrival of the mercurial Musk loomed.
Other cases are berating Musk for his cheeky ultimatum that staff subscribe to his vision for the company and embrace a “tough” work ethic, or take three months of their salary and quit.
This, lawyers allege, was a covert firing scheme that ignored California law by denying workers compensation and the 60-day notice period required by law.
– ‘Absolute indifference’ –
Musk’s disdain for working from home is also being resisted, with employees with disabilities or health problems seeing orders to return to the office as discriminatory.
“There was a flat disregard for personal conditions, such as relevant medical problems. This was all done while Elon Musk was publicly abusing us on Twitter,” said a former senior Twitter employee, Amir Shevat.
Shevat and other employees are represented by Lisa Bloom, a high-profile attorney in Los Angeles who has represented disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
Bloom is handling arbitration claims as many Twitter employees gave up their right to fight their situation in court when they joined the company.
“We will continue to file these claims, one by one, bombarding Twitter with claims,” Bloom said at a news conference on Monday.
“We are prepared to bring hundreds, if not thousands, of individual arbitrations to make sure that employees get what they are owed,” he said.
This, experts said, could cost Twitter and Musk dearly.
Twitter “could quickly resolve the issue by paying former employees what they are entitled to under the law,” said Eric Goldman, a law professor at Santa Clara University.
“Or you could play hardball and make them work for it, which could take years,” he said.
The pile of legal cases could also force Musk to work toward a settlement, especially since his company is under major financial stress after it paid $44 billion to take full ownership.
The usually outspoken businessman has said little specifically about the legal cases, reserving criticism for a city inspection after Twitter conference rooms were turned into makeshift bedrooms.
“So the City of San Francisco attacks companies that provide beds for tired employees instead of making sure children are safe from fentanyl,” Musk said in a tweet, attacking Mayor London Breed.
Musk was referring to a recent scandal involving a 10-month-old boy who overdosed on fentanyl after ingesting the substance at a playground.