Two women who lost their jobs at Twitter have brought a class action case against the company, claiming that women were disproportionately targeted during mass layoffs after Elon Musk took over the firm.
A sex discrimination case filed in San Francisco this week claims that Twitter made 57% of female staff redundant, compared with 47% of men.
The disparity was more stark in engineering roles, where 63% of women lost their jobs, versus 48% of men. They say this cannot be explained, based upon Musk’s intentions to retain more employees in engineering-related roles.
Since Musk took over the company it has laid off around half of its workforce in the US, about 2,600 employees, while hundreds of others have resigned as they were unwilling to sign up to the long hours and the “extremely hardcore” work that Musk demanded.
The lawsuit states: “The mass termination of employees at Twitter has impacted female employees to a much greater extent than male employees – and to a highly statistically significant degree. Moreover, Elon Musk has made a number of publicly discriminatory remarks about women, further confirming that the mass termination’s greater impact on female employees resulted from discrimination. Musk also quickly implemented new policies at Twitter that would have a
disparate impact on women, thus forcing more women to leave the company.”
It says that decisions about which employees would lose their jobs were “made under extremely hurried circumstances, with little if any regard given to employees’ job performance, qualifications, experience, and abilities”.
It claims some employees became aware they would lose their job when they had their access to Twitter’s systems cut off, only to be formally notified the following day.
Images that emerged this week show conference rooms at Twitter’s HQ have been converted into bedrooms, as some employees were told they were expected to work 12-hour shifts, seven days a week, while others were told to “work 24/7”.
The lawsuit filing claims that Musk would have known these policy changes and expectations would have a disproportionate impact on women, who are more often caregivers for children and other family members.
The court documents also note that Twitter has stated that it will be sending severance agreements to certain
discharged employees. The claimants say they are concerned that employees will sign these documents without having been informed of their rights, including that a claim of sex discrimination has been filed on their behalf.
Speaking at a press conference this week, the claimants’ lawyer Shannon Liss-Riordan, who is also representing former Twitter staff in three other cases, said: “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.”
Willow Wren Turkal, one of the claimants, said: “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.”
Other cases brought by former Twitter staff in California claim that the company failed to give employees and contractors notice before dismissing them; failed to pay severance; and forced workers with disabilities out of their jobs because Musk no longer wanted people to work remotely.
Twitter has denied wrongdoing in the lawsuit involving advance notice, and has not yet responded to the other complaints.