Twitter Hit with Discrimination Suit Amidst Musk Transition

A lawsuit filed Thursday in the Northern District of California alleges that Twitter Inc. discriminated against disabled employees who have been discharged or constructively discharged from their jobs during the tumultuous weeks since billionaire Elon Musk purchased the company. The suit brings claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act and for California employees, claims under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act challenging the practice.

The named plaintiff is a California man and cancer survivor who joined Twitter in June 2021 as an Engineering Manager. Because of his heightened susceptibility to COVID-19, the man was assured that he would always have the option to work remotely.

Yet before Musk took the reins, he told employees to expect layoffs, and after laying off a substantial portion of the workforce, he told the remaining employees that they would have to return to the office barring rare exceptions. Further, he said they must commit to “work[ing] long hours at high intensity,” or resign. 

Shortly after the plaintiff raised the issue of continuing to work remotely with his manager, he was fired. The November 15 email from human resources reportedly said that his “recent behavior has violated company policy.”

The complaint contends that many Twitter employees who have lost their jobs are disabled. It explains that their job losses were either triggered by direct termination, or indirectly by fear that they would not be able to meet Musk’s heightened standard of performance and productivity.

Though Twitter told employees with disabilities who resigned were assured that they would receive severances shortly, the plaintiff expressed concern that “employees will be asked to sign away their rights without notice that they have legal claims of discrimination and that these legal claims have already been filed on their behalf.”

Thus, the suit seeks to ensure that Twitter does not solicit the releases of such claims without informing employees of the pendency of the action and their right to pursue these claims. It also seeks damages.

The plaintiff and putative class are represented by Lichten & Liss-Riordan P.C.