Elon Musk Locks Doors on Twitter HQ, Employees Panic and File Lawsuit as Mass Layoffs Await


Forget Casual Fridays. Friday was Layoff-Lockout day at Twitter.

Employees were to be notified by email that very same day whether or not they were out of a job, according to The Washington Post.

“We recognize that this will impact a number of individuals who have made valuable contributions to Twitter, but this action is unfortunately necessary to ensure the company’s success moving forward,” new CEO Elon Musk said late Thursday in an email, according to the Post.

A lawyer who filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of employees said Friday that Musk “is making an effort to comply” with relevant law, Bloomberg reported.

Despite feeling Musk was “making an effort,” labor lawyer Shannon Liss-Riordan filed suit Thursday claiming Twitter violated federal and California laws against layoffs on short notice.

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She said she was happy to learn that some Twitter employees will continue to be paid until January 4 after she sued the company “pre-emptively” against layoffs.

That pre-emptive move was similar to an action she took in Texas last June against Musk’s Tesla Inc. in which a federal judge in Austin ruled Tesla employees had to use private arbitration instead of making their claims in open court.

Friday, Musk locked employees out of the Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters and corporate email and Slack accounts in conjunction with his announcement to cut Twitter’s 3,700-person workforce by half.

Riss-Riordan’s lawsuit seeks an order for Twitter to comply with the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. The act requires companies with 100 or more employees to give 60 days notice of massive layoffs.

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With Twitter moving in Riss-Riordan’s direction, she said she will be monitoring things to make sure Twitter employees are treated fairly.

“I am pleased that Elon Musk learned something from the lawsuit we brought against him at Tesla,” she said. “We filed this case preemptively to make sure a repeat of that violation did not happen.”

Riss-Riordan is also concerned with how Twitter determined which workers to boot and for alleged retaliation against a plaintiff in the class action suit, Bloomberg said.

Her suit also seeks to protect employees from signing away their rights to take part in lawsuits.

Twitter has told workers severance agreements to come next week will be accompanied by waivers against making claims against the company.

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Liss-Riordan, working out of Boston, has sued gig-economy companies like Uber claiming they exploit workers. She was an unsuccessful candidate in this year’s Democrat primary for attorney general of Massachusetts.

Musk has launched much debate about his handling of the purchase of Twitter, even getting into dimensions of what constitutes free speech.

Interestingly, a New York Post report came out claiming Musk was slashing the work force to brace a “torrent of red ink.” The report claims that the company was on track to lose $700 million in 2023 if Musk hadn’t slashed payroll. The main source of pain, according to the report, is the interest payments Musk will owe on the debt he accrued to finalize the Twitter purchase.

Amid all of this confusion and controversy, Bloomberg reporter Kurt Wagner said Musk has been seemingly thinking out loud or publicly “workshopping” ideas.

“We know that Elon is making the decisions, right?,” Wagner said. “And that’s the best I can tell is that a lot of things are being done very quickly and sort of haphazardly, right?

“I mean, even this change, they’re going to raise the price of their subscription product to eight dollars and they’re going to add some new features including the blue check verification.

“You know, we saw him sort of like workshopping this publicly on Twitter, right? He’s like tweeting, hey, would you pay for this? How much would you pay? What features would you want?

“And then all of a sudden, he just announced it the next day. And so we’re seeing there’s a very small group of folks, including some venture capitalists, who are sort of advising him here. But really, it feels like Elon is sort of, you know, kind of making this up as he goes along,” according to Wagner.

A blue check on a Twitter account means Twitter verifies that the account is “authentic, notable and active.” 

It’s been described by CBS News as a status symbol for prominent individuals like celebrities, journalists and politicians.

Musk settled on an $8 charge for the blue check after a proposed $20 monthly fee brought intense resistance.

So the fee’s in place, Twitter entered the weekend closed, employees presumably were laid off, debate over what constitutes free speech continues and more is anticipated from Musk’s public workshop.

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Mike Landry, PhD, is a retired business professor. He has been a journalist, broadcaster and church pastor. He writes from Northwest Arkansas on current events and business history.
Mike Landry, PhD, is a retired business professor. He has been a journalist, broadcaster and church pastor. He writes from Northwest Arkansas on current events and business history.