By Clare Duffy, CNN
A group of former Twitter employees who are suing the company spoke out Thursday, alleging that new owner Elon Musk’s mass layoffs at the company have triggered multiple labor rights violations.
“Real people were affected by this, I have a family, I have kids to support,” former Twitter engineer Wren Turkal said during a press conference in San Francisco. “All that we’re looking for is fairness.”
Another former Twitter engineer, Emmanuel Cornet, said during the event: “It seems like the layoffs have been done in a way that’s really clumsy and inhumane and potentially illegal … and this is the aftermath.”
Twitter, which recently laid off much of its communications department, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuits or former employee comments.
The employees who spoke during the Thursday press conference are each plaintiffs in lawsuits filed by attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan against Twitter on behalf of former employees who were affected by Musk’s takeover of the company.
The four suits, all of which are seeking class action status, include claims that Twitter reneged on promises to allow remote work and consistent severance benefits after the Musk acquisition, as well as complaints related to alleged disability and gender-based discrimination, and another suit on behalf of Twitter contractors who were laid off.
The press conference was held ahead of the first hearing in the initial case, in which a group of five former employees allege that Musk has violated promises the company made to employees prior to his takeover.
The suit alleges that employees were assured they could continue to work remotely for at least a year following the acquisition and were promised that any workers laid off under Musk would receive the same benefits and severance that employees had been entitled to prior to the takeover.
The lawsuit also claims that in the case of at least one employee terminated as part of the mass layoffs on November 1, Twitter did not provide sufficient notice required by federal and California laws, nor was he offered additional pay in lieu of the notice.
The attorney said Thursday she has also filed three claims against Twitter with the National Labor Relations Board on behalf of former employees.
The lawsuits were filed after Musk laid off around half of Twitter’s staff last month, in an effort to slash costs following his $44 billion acquisition of the social media company. The company hadn’t previously filed notice to state or local officials of the layoff plans, immediately raising questions about whether the terminations might violate California and federal WARN Acts, although at least some employees reportedly received sufficient pay to negate the need for such notice.
During Thursday’s hearing, lawyers for the former employees were set to ask a federal court for an order barring Twitter from seeking separation agreements with laid off employees without informing them of the lawsuit and their associated rights. As part of the requested order, they are also seeking to bar Twitter from communicating with employees in any way that could undermine their rights as part of the litigation.
“Plaintiffs are very concerned that employees will be asked to sign away their rights without notice that they have legal claims to additional benefits and severance and that these legal claims have already been filed on their behalf,” the former employees said in their lawsuit.
Liss-Riordan added during the press conference that, “the richest man in the world is not above the law. The employees have rights here.”
Weeks after the initial Twitter layoffs, hundreds more Twitter employees exited after Musk gave them an ultimatum to work “extremely hardcore” or leave the company.
“Of all the issues Elon Musk is facing right now, this feels like the easiest one to fix … treat your workers with respect,” Liss-Riordan said.
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