A legal counterattack by Twitter alumni could cost Elon Musk dearly
The purge, launched by Elon Musk on Twitter in early November, has left more than half of its employees on the ground, with many now taking legal action in what promises to be a long and potentially expensive time for the entrepreneur.
It’s unclear how many people still work at Twitter, which is more of a press office for the California company.
But “about 50%” of the 7,500 workers were laid off on November 3, according to an internal message. Elon Musk tweeted the next day, “Offered three months of compensation to all who lost their jobs.”
Five recently fired Twitter employees immediately filed a class action lawsuit against the company.
They give two main reasons. On the one hand, the violation of the contract concluded before the purchase of the social network by Tesla’s boss.
Last summer, Twitter’s former management did indeed promise employees some level of financial compensation if the social plan went through.
The plaintiffs’ attorney, Shannon Liss-Riordan, said the goal was to “slow down the departures.” About 700 employees resigned before it was confirmed that the multibillionaire would indeed take control of the platform.
“Then Musk came along and threw that promise out the window,” the lawyer said.
The second reason relates to the 60-day notice period required by US law (the Notice Act) during mass layoffs, which is not considered for some workers.
“Twitter claims they were fired for professional misconduct, which we believe is part of a social plan,” continues Shannon Liss-Riordan.
– Office-dormitories –
The attorney is also prosecuting two other class actions, one on behalf of subcontractor employees and one for discrimination.
Because two weeks after the layoffs, Elon Musk issued an ultimatum: work “fully, unconditionally” in the office or walk out. However, for some disabled workers, telecommuting is the only option.
According to local radio station KQED News, the San Francisco company is also the target of an investigation into some offices at its headquarters being converted into bedrooms for employees who sleep there.
The legal path taken by the five former employees of the social network is weak because “most Twitter employees are bound by an arbitration clause,” meaning they can only seek compensation in arbitration.
Once the contract is signed, this clause prevents the employee from resorting to common law.
The platform asked San Francisco federal judge James Donato to dismiss the claims of the five former bluebirds and force them to go through individual arbitration.
The plaintiffs are asking the court to make a collective decision on Twitter’s possible violations before filing for arbitration.
“If the court chooses to arbitrate, we are prepared to file hundreds, if not thousands, of individual claims to ensure workers receive their rights,” says Shannon Liss-Riordan.
– “Mass Arbitrations” –
Lisa Bloom, a California lawyer, said at a press conference on Monday that she will seek arbitration for several former social network clients.
“And we’re going to continue to bombard Twitter with these demands one by one,” he said.
“Typically, arbitration clauses are viewed as employer-friendly and cost-cutting tools,” explains Eric Goldman, a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law.
“But because arbitration puts those costs on Twitter, it creates the opportunity to dramatically increase the bill in the event of massive arbitrations,” he said.
“This puts Twitter in a worse position than it would have been had it not sought arbitration,” the academic insists.
In the event of resistance from the social network, it warns that individual procedures may “take years” to complete.
“The collective aspect creates an incentive for the employer to find an amicable settlement,” argues Risa Lieberwitz, a professor of labor law at Cornell University, “rather than considering each arbitration claim separately.
Eric Goldman points out that Twitter is already in bad financial shape, burdened with 13 billion in debt due to its takeover and losing a significant part of its turnover due to the withdrawal of many advertisers.
Shannon Liss-Riordan, a defense attorney for former Tesla employees, said Elon Musk “thinks he’s above the law and can do whatever he wants.”
But “in this country we have laws that protect workers. The richest man in the world cannot ignore such laws. »