Twitter Inc. employees terminated in Elon Musk’s mass layoffs must be told about a lawsuit on their behalf…
Twitter Inc. employees terminated in Elon Musk’s mass layoffs must be told about a lawsuit on their behalf against the company before they’re asked to give up their legal rights to qualify for severance pay, a judge ruled.
Twitter wants employees who accept a severance package that includes a month of base pay to sign a waiver agreeing not to join lawsuits against the company. The agreement doesn’t mention the existence of a class-action suit filed just before hundreds of people were fired in early November following Elon Musk’s takeover.
A company’s communications with workers about severance packages “should not be rendered misleading by omitting material information about a pending lawsuit,” US District Judge James Donato said in Wednesday’s order, adding that proper notice will “promote the fair and efficient administration” of the litigation.
Filed by a handful of workers, the suit alleges Twitter failed to give the required 60 to 90 days notice about the mass layoffs and is shortchanging the former employees on severance pay. Twitter faces separate claims that it retaliated against an employee who tried to organize a strike and that its layoffs disproportionately targeted female workers.
“Today’s decision is a victory for Twitter employees who for weeks have been abused by Elon Musk,” Shannon Liss-Riordan, a lawyer for the workers, said in an emailed statement. “The court’s ruling that Twitter must notify employees of our legal action is a basic but important step that will provide employees with the opportunity to more fully understand their rights instead of just signing them away, and potentially signing away money they are owed, under pressure from Musk.”
Liss-Riordan previously tangled with Musk over layoffs at Tesla Inc., his electric-car company. She argues in the Twitter suit that former workers are entitled to at least two months’ base pay, and maybe more depending on the number of years they worked there.
Under the previous agreement they’re also supposed to get three months of equity vesting, health-care contributions, and bonuses, she said.
Twitter argued its former employees are bound by contractual agreements requiring them to resolve any disputes with the company in closed-door arbitration rather than in open court. A hearing on the company’s request to force the workers into arbitration is set for January.
After Musk bought the social media company for $44 billion, he fired half the workforce, asked some essential employees to return, rolled back its expansive work-from-home policy, and called on workers to sign a pledge to remain “extremely hardcore” at Twitter or quit.
The case is Cornet v. Twitter, 22-cv-06857, US District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).