Twitter layoffs begin, sparking a lawsuit and backlash

Twitter layoffs begin, sparking a lawsuit and backlash

Long-dreaded layoffs are finally happening at Twitter, which has been owned by billionaire Elon Musk for only a week. They have sparked a lawsuit from employees and a call for advertisers to boycott.

Jessica González, CEO of Free Press, which is part of the #StopToxicTwitter coalition, said she and leaders of more than 40 other groups met with Musk earlier this week.

"He promised to retain and enforce the election-integrity measures that were on Twitter's books before his takeover. With today's mass layoffs, it is clear that his actions betray his words," González said.

She said Musk was taking apart Twitter's investment in fact checking, moderators and policy, which could allow more dangerous disinformation to spread, especially so close to Election Day.

"Twitter was already a hellscape before Musk took over. His actions in the past week will only make it worse," González said.


Several major advertisers have suspended advertising on Twitter since Musk took over, including General Motors and Pfizer. Nearly all of Twitter's revenue comes from ads.

Employees sue Musk over lack of notice for firings
A handful of employees moved quickly to file a class action lawsuit in federal court in San Francisco on behalf of Twitter workers.

The case alleges that Twitter is letting go of staff without adequate notice, in violation of California and federal employment law. The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification act, or WARN, requires at least a 60-day notice before conducting mass layoffs.

The company wouldn't comment on the exact number of staff let go and which departments lost the most, but an internal company email told employees to stay home Friday and wait for an email about the future of their jobs.

Employees posted about getting laid off on Twitter under the hashtag #LoveWhereYouWorked.

They expressed gratitude to their teams and bosses, grieved for the company culture they enjoyed, and worried about colleagues who might lose health insurance or work visas.

Other users chimed in, calling Twitter employees "government stooges" and criticizing content moderation and policy decisions under the company's previous leadership.

Musk has long complained about the size of Twitter's staff, which was about 7,500. The company had ballooned in recent years, even as it struggled financially.

Musk fired many of Twitter's top executives last week, including its CEO, chief financial officer and top lawyers. He also dissolved its board.

Elon Musk’s Twitter lays off employees across the company

Twitter on Friday laid off employees in departments across the company, in a severe round of cost cutting that could potentially upend how one of the world’s most influential platforms operates one week after it was acquired by billionaire Elon Musk.

Twitter on Friday laid off employees in departments across the company, in a severe round of cost cutting that could potentially upend how one of the world’s most influential platforms operates one week after it was acquired by billionaire Elon Musk.

By Friday morning, Twitter employees from departments including ethical AI, marketing and communication, search, public policy, wellness and other teams had tweeted about having been let go. Members of the curation team, which help elevate reliable information on the platform, including about elections, were also laid off, according to employee posts.

“Just got remotely logged out of my work laptop and removed from Slack,” one Twitter employee said on the platform. “So sad it had to end this way.”

Another employee said that she and other members of Twitter’s human rights team had been laid off. The employee added that she is proud of the team’s work “to protect those at-risk in global conflicts & crises including Ethiopia, Afghanistan, and Ukraine, and to defend the needs of those particularly at risk of human rights abuse by virtue of their social media presence, such as journalists & human rights defenders.”

One Twitter employee who was laid off told CNN Friday that some workers are relieved to have been let go. “For me, being safe would’ve been punishment,” the employee said.

While Twitter employees were posting about being laid off, Musk on Friday appeared for a friendly interview at an investor conference and spoke about making cheaper electric vehicles and his ambitions to go to Mars. During the interview, Musk said of Twitter, “I tried to get out of the deal,” but then added, “I think there is a tremendous amount of potential … and I think it could be one of the most valuable companies in the world.”

The interviewer said that Musk had laid off “half of Twitter” and Musk nodded, although he did not comment on the remark. He appeared to frame the layoffs as necessary for a company that, like other social media firms, was experiencing “revenue challenges” prior to his acquisition as advertisers rethink spending amid recession fears.

Musk also said “a number of major advertisers have stopped spending on Twitter” in the days since the acquisition was completed.

It’s unclear exactly how many Twitter employees have been or will be laid off. Twitter had about 7,500 workers prior to Musk’s takeover. In recent days, there have been reports that Twitter could cut 25% to 50% of its staff as Musk rethinks how the platform operates and attempts to improve the company’s bottom line after taking out significant debt financing to fund his $44 billion acquisition.

The email sent Thursday evening notified employees that they would receive a notice by 12 p.m. ET Friday that informs them of their employment status.

“If your employment is not impacted, you will receive a notification via your Twitter email,” a copy of the email obtained by CNN said. “If your employment is impacted, you will receive a notification with next steps via your personal email.”

The email added that “to help ensure the safety” of employees and Twitter’s systems, the company’s offices “will be temporarily closed and all badge access will be suspended.”

The email concluded acknowledging that it will be “an incredibly challenging experience to go through” for the workforce.

Several Twitter employees on Thursday night filed a class action lawsuit alleging that Twitter is in violation of the federal and California Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN Act) after laying off some employees already.

The WARN Act requires that an employer with more than 100 employees must provide 60 days’ advanced written notice prior to a mass layoff “affecting 50 or more employees at a single site of employment.”

“Elon Musk, the richest man in the world, has made clear that he believes complying with federal labor laws is ‘trivial,’” Attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan, who filed the lawsuit, said in a statement to CNN. “We have filed this federal complaint to ensure that Twitter be held accountable to our laws and to prevent Twitter employees from unknowingly signing away their rights.”

California’s Employment Development Department confirmed to CNN that no WARN notices had been filed by Twitter as of midday Friday.

Musk started his tenure at Twitter by firing CEO Parag Agrawal and two other executives, according to two people familiar with the decision.

And in less than a week since Musk acquired the company, its C-suite appears to have almost entirely cleared out, through a mix of firings and resignations. Musk has also dissolved Twitter’s former board of directors.

Many staffers on Friday summed up their feelings with a hashtag, #LoveWhereYouWorked, a past-tense play on one previously often used by Twitter employees.

- Clare Duffy and Shawn Nottingham contributed to this report

Twitter sued by employees after mass layoffs begin

Five current or former Twitter employees sued the company Thursday alleging it violated federal and California laws by failing to give enough notice about ongoing mass layoffs.

Twitter will inform staffers Friday of their job status, and it’s expected to fire about 3,700 employees.

The layoffs are commencing just days after Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk took control of Twitter.

Twitter was sued by former employees who say they were not given enough notice under federal and California law that they had lost their jobs amid ongoing mass layoffs.

The class-action lawsuit was filed in San Francisco federal court Thursday by five current or former Twitter employees, including Emmanuel Cornet, a software engineer known for his satirical cartoons critiquing Silicon Valley, who was fired Tuesday, according to the complaint.

Twitter informed employees Thursday evening, days after Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk took control of the company, that it would begin laying off staff members, according to communications obtained by NBC News. In the email, Twitter said staffers will receive a notice about their employment in their work email if they still have a job, or their personal email accounts if their “employment is impacted.”

Twitter employees are expecting the company to cut 50% of its workforce, or roughly 3,700 employees.

The federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires employers to provide advance notice, generally within 60 days, of mass layoffs or plant closings.

“Plaintiffs file this action seeking to ensure that Twitter comply with the law and provide the requisite notice or severance payment in connection with the anticipated layoffs,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit asks the court to issue an order requiring Twitter to obey the WARN Act. It also seeks to prevent Twitter from soliciting employees to sign documents that could give up their right to participate in litigation.

Representatives from Twitter didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

A spokesperson for California’s employment department said Twitter has not filed any WARN notices with the agency this year. 

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