Legal counterattack by Twitter alumni could cost Elon Musk dearly
The purge that Elon Musk initiated at Twitter in early November left more than half of the employees on the floor, many of whom are now taking legal action, a process that promises to be lengthy and potentially expensive for businessman.
It is impossible to know how many people still work at Twitter, the company in California that has, a priori, more press services.
But “almost 50%” of 7,500 employees were laid off on November 3, according to an internal message. “All those who lost their jobs have been offered three months’ compensation,” Elon Musk tweeted the next day.
Five Twitter employees recently filed a class action lawsuit against the company.
They gave two main reasons. On the one hand, the destruction of an agreement was completed before the acquisition of the social network by the boss of Tesla.
Last summer, Twitter’s former management actually promised employees that in the event of a social plan they would get a certain level of financial compensation.
The goal is to “slow down the departures,” said Shannon Liss-Riordan, the plaintiffs’ attorney. Around 700 employees resigned before it was confirmed that the multi-billionaire would actually take control of the platform.
“Then Musk came along and threw that promise out the window,” the lawyer said.
The second reason has to do with the 60-day notice period required by US law in the event of mass layoffs (Warn Act), which is not respected for some employees.
“Twitter says they were fired for professional misconduct, when in our opinion they were part of a social plan,” continued Shannon Liss-Riordan.
– Dormitory offices –
The attorney is also involved in two other class actions, one on behalf of a subcontractor’s employees, the other for discrimination.
Since two weeks after the layoffs, Elon Musk has issued an ultimatum: work “fully, unconditionally” in the office, or walk out. However, teleworking is the only option for some employees with disabilities.
The San Francisco company is also the target of an investigation into converting some offices at its headquarters into rooms for employees to sleep there, according to KQED News, a local radio station.
The legal route taken by the five former employees of the social network is weak, as “most of Twitter’s employees are bound by an arbitration clause”, which means they can only seek compensation before an arbitration tribunal.
Once the contract is signed, this clause prevents the employee from resorting to ordinary justice.
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 collectively rule on Twitter’s potential violations of the law before referring them to arbitration.
“If the court chooses arbitration, we are prepared to file hundreds, if not thousands, of individual claims to ensure that employees receive what they deserve,” said Shannon Liss-Riordan.
– “Mass arbitrations” –
On Monday, California attorney Lisa Bloom said at a press conference that she would seek arbitration for some of her former clients on the social network.
“And we will continue to file these requests, one by one, bombarding Twitter,” he said.
“Typically, arbitration clauses are viewed in favor of the employer and as a way of reducing costs,” explains Eric Goldman, professor at Santa Clara University School of Law.
“But because arbitration puts those costs on Twitter, it creates an opportunity to dramatically increase the fee in the event of mass arbitrations,” he said.
“This puts Twitter in a worse situation than if it had not requested arbitration,” the academic insisted.
In the event of resistance from the social network, the farandole of individual methods “could take years”, he warned.
“The collective aspect creates an incentive for the employer to find an amicable agreement” around the world, says Risa Lieberwitz, professor of labor law at Cornell University, “instead of going through each request individually. in arbitration.”.
Eric Goldman recalled that Twitter was in a bad financial situation, burdened with 13 billion in debt through acquisitions and lost a large proportion of its turnover by leaving many advertisers.
Elon Musk “thinks he’s above the law, that he can do what he wants,” said Shannon Liss-Riordan, who also defends former Tesla employees.
But “we have laws in this country that protect employees. And even the richest man in the world cannot ignore the law. »