Federal and California laws requires companies to provide advance notice of mass layoffs. A spokesman for California’s Employment Development Department said on November 3 that it had received no notices from Twitter, but is expected to report mass layoffs to the agency. The New York Times wrote that, under the terms of his deal to acquire Twitter, Mr. Musk agreed to keep employee compensation and benefits the same for one year. Twitter workers are typically paid at least two months’ salary and the cash value of equity they were scheduled to receive within three months of a layoff date.
The California WARN Act protects employees, their families, and communities by requiring employers to give a 60-day notice to the affected employees and both state and local representatives before a plant closing or mass layoff – the latter is defined as a layoff during any 30-day period of 50 or more employees at an industrial or commercial facility or part thereof that employs, or has employed within the preceding 12 months, 75 or more persons.
According to the lawsuit, Twitter employees Emmanuel Cornet, Justine De Caires, Grae Kindel, Alexis Camacho, and Jessica Pan filed a class action complaint against Twitter, Inc. for its violation of the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (the “WARN Act”) as well as the California WARN Act. “That company attempted to obtain releases from laid-off employees without informing them of their rights under the federal or California WARN Acts…A federal court subsequently ordered the company to provide employees notice of the claims that had been filed on their behalf.”
Elon Musk started culling employees at Twitter immediately after an email went out saying cuts would start the next day, reported Business Insider. Plaintiff Cornet was terminated on November 1, without providing advanced written warning, as required by the federal WARN Act and California WARN Act. Two days later, three more plaintiffs were locked out of their accounts, which they interpreted as being laid off. The lawsuit states that plaintiffs are very concerned that Twitter will continue these layoffs without providing the requisite notice. Tesla, another company owned by Elon Musk, recently engaged in mass layoffs without notice. That company attempted to obtain releases from laid off employees without informing them of their rights under the federal or California WARN Acts. A federal court subsequently ordered the company to provide employees notice of the claims that had been filed on their behalf.
Twitter Layoff Announcements
The company told employees they were being laid off via email. “During this time, you will be on a Non-Working Notice period and your access to Twitter systems will be deactivated”, which was also signed “Twitter.” Employees would receive details on severance “within a week,” reported The New York Times. “In an effort to place Twitter on a healthy path, we will go through the difficult process of reducing our global work force,” the email said. “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.”
The Washington Post reported that Twitter staff became aware of the planned 50 percent reduction on November 2, despite not getting any official word from leadership. “By day's end, word had spread across the company that layoffs—half the staff—would probably come [November 4], and that Musk would require Twitter's remaining employees to return to the office full-time. But that word didn't come from Musk, or anyone on his leadership team. It came via Blind, the anonymous workplace gossip site that some Twitter employees say has become their best, and often only, source of information about what's going on inside the company in the chaotic, surreal week since Musk acquired it for $44 billion.”
Two more blind posts from Twitter workers said, “This level of silent treatment is totally unprofessional,” and another worker replied, “It’s not silent treatment it is psychological warfare.”
Another Twitter employee discovered, via a group on the workplace chat tool Slack, that company administrators appeared to be finalizing the precise number of workers to be laid off, and how much they’d receive in severance. Fearing retribution, a few Twitter employees spoke to the newspaper on the condition of anonymity: “It’s like Twitter’s culture has been completely turned inside out overnight,” one employee said. “Mass trauma event over here.” Another person posted an image of a skeleton with a caption that read, “me waiting on updates from leadership”.
Another worker wrote, “We’re all working for the Trump White House”, comparing the atmosphere to Donald Trump’s administration, where tweets from the president announcing policies that hadn’t been discussed internally could come at any time.
In a press release, San Francisco District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey said that Twitter had filed a notice with city officials informing them that the company would lay off 784 employees at its San Francisco offices beginning Jan. 4, 2023. Elon Musk has said on Twitter that employees were offered three months’ severance pay as the company loses what he said was $4 million daily. The Twitter acquisition has put the gazillionaire about $13 billion in debt and he has to shell out about $1 billion a year in interest payments.
Twitter and Tesla
Bloomberg reported that Musk plans to replace the laid off workers and require remote employees to report to an office rather than the company's existing work-from-anywhere policy. And senior personnel on Twitter product teams "were asked to target a 50 percent reduction in headcount... Layoff lists were drawn up and ranked based on individuals' contributions to Twitter's code during their time at the company." Musk reportedly brought in "engineers and director-level staff from Tesla" to help assess the layoff lists.
Bloomberg also wrote that Musk immediately fired several other high-ranking executives, including a few employees with director and vice president jobs.
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Some Twitter employees circulated a “Layoff Guide” with tips for fellow “tweeps” on corporate surveillance and employment rights. One worker, who was later fired, created software to help colleagues download important emails and documents.
And one more blind post: Musk has “walked out of” the Twitter building. The class action is Case No. 3:22-cv-6857.