Women sue Twitter, claiming Musk layoffs unfairly targeted female staff
The proposed class-action lawsuit alleges that after the takeover, 57% of women were laid off compared with 47% of men
Two women who lost their jobs at Twitter during mass layoffs after Elon Musk took over the company are suing, claiming that the company disproportionately targeted female employees for cuts.
The discrimination lawsuit is the latest in a series of legal challenges to hit the company after Musk, the world’s richest person, bought the company for $44bn and set about making swift, drastic changes including laying off around half its workforce, or roughly 3,700 employees. Hundreds more subsequently resigned.
The new suit, filed on Wednesday in San Francisco federal court, said that Twitter laid off 57% of its female workers compared with 47% of men.
The gender disparity was more stark for engineering roles, where 63% of women lost their jobs compared to 48% of men, according to the new lawsuit.
The lawsuit accuses the company of violating federal and California laws banning workplace sex discrimination.
Shannon Liss-Riordan, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said women “had targets on their backs” once Musk acquired the company, regardless of their talent and contributions.
“It’s not a huge surprise unfortunately that women were hit so hard by these layoffs when Elon Musk was overseeing these incredibly ad hoc layoffs just in a matter of days,” Liss-Riordan said at a press conference in San Fransisco discussing the four class action lawsuits she has filed on behalf of former Twitter employees.
Wren Turkal, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said she had been through acquisitions at other companies but that she had “never seen anything like this”.
“I have a family, I have a kid to support,” Turkal said at the press conference. “All that we’re looking for is fairness. I’m also worried about my friends who are financially in a difficult position or are in a difficult position for visa reasons.”
Liss-Riordan represents current and former Twitter employees in three other pending lawsuits filed in the same court since last month.
Those cases include various claims, including that Twitter laid off employees and contractors without the advance notice required by law and failed to pay promised severance, and that Musk forced out workers with disabilities by refusing to allow remote work and calling on employees to be more “hardcore”.
At least three workers have separately filed complaints against Twitter with the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) claiming they faced retaliation for advocating for better working conditions. Liss-Riordan said that she has also filed a complaint with the NLRB on behalf of employees who were protesting policies Musk was implementing including the “abrupt return to office” policy.
“It’s very clear that this company is doing all it can to disrupt worker organizing and that’s also illegal,” she said.
Twitter has denied wrongdoing in the lawsuit involving advance notice, and has not responded to the other complaints.
The lawsuit comes as Musk’s company continues to face scrutiny on multiple fronts. This week the company came under under investigation by city officials in San Francisco following a complaint that the company allegedly converted rooms in its headquarters to sleeping quarters.
As of Monday, the office has “modest bedrooms featuring unmade mattresses, drab curtains and giant conference-room telepresence monitors” with four to eight beds a floor, employees told Forbes. The changes appear to be part of Musk’s plan for a more “hardcore Twitter” in which he’s demanded workers dedicate “long hours at high intensity”.
“People’s livelihoods are at stake here,” Liss-Riordan said at the press conference. “Real people were impacted by these decisions.”
“Of all the issues facing Elon Musk, this is the easiest to address: treat the workers with respect, pay them what they deserve under the law,” she added.