SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — Women were disproportionately targeted for termination when Elon Musk took over Twitter as CEO and ordered mass layoffs, a new lawsuit filed on behalf of former Twitter employees claims.
According to the discrimination lawsuit, Musk also violated Family and Medical Leave Act law by targeting pregnant employees who were on leave, or about to take leave.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday by attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan, is based on an analysis of newly discovered data detailing who was targeted for termination since Musk took control of the company. An expert analysis shows that women were laid-off by Musk at a rate “highly unlikely to be random or performance-based.”
Liss-Riordan said, “Women at Twitter never had a decent shot at being treated fairly once Elon Musk decided to buy the company. Instead, they had targets on their backs and regardless of their talent and contributions, they were at greater risk of losing their jobs than men. (Musk) thinks he is above the law.”
Musk bought the San Francisco-headquartered company for $44 billion in October and fired half of Twitter’s workforce of 7,500 employees. The billionaire said slashing costs was necessary to make the social media giant more profitable.
“Musk, who is also CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, is known for his companies’ hard-charging cultures. Musk is facing pressure to push up the value of Twitter — which some analysts have said was actually worth about half of what he paid, partially because of the decline in the markets between his offer in April and its closing in October,” the Washington Post wrote.
Sexism against women is part of that “hard-charging” culture, according to the lawsuit. The suit claims Musk’s terminations of female Twitter employees “was not only intentional, but are a continuation of the way Musk conducts himself and his business.”
Twitter’s layoff decisions were made quickly by a small group of managers under close supervision by Musk, attorneys said. Some of these managers were brought in from Silicon Valley companies owned by Musk, including Tesla, “who did not have much, if any, knowledge about Twitter’s operations,” the lawsuit states.
On November 4, approximately 2,621 out of 5,134 U.S.-based employees were notified that they were being laid off. Just prior to layoffs, Twitter employed 2,234 female employees and 2,900 male employees in the U.S.
“Thus, 57% of female employees were laid off on November 4, while 47 percent of male employees were laid off,” the suit states.
According to Dr. Mark Killingsworth, a professor in the Department of Economics at Rutgers University, the odds that the disparity is due only to chance is 0.00000000000001, or 9.977 out of 100 trillion.
Musk tweeted, “Regarding Twitter’s reduction in force, unfortunately there is no choice when the company is losing over $4M/day.”
Musk has also implemented new policies at Twitter that have a disparate impact on women and will likely prompt more to leave, the suit states. Attorneys claim Twitter employees were warned by executives that they would be expected to work “around-the-clock,” seven days a week.
In November, Musk sent an ultimatum email at midnight to his remaining employees notifying them that Twitter was shifting to an engineer-driven operation that “will need to be extremely hardcore.”
Musk’s email stated, “This will mean working long hours at high intensity. Only exceptional performance will constitute a passing grade.”
The lawsuit states, “Musk would certainly have known that these policy changes and expectations would have a disproportionate impact on women, who are more often caregivers for children and other family members.”
Two plaintiffs named in the suit are Carolina Bernal Strifling, who worked for Twitter from 2015-November of 2022, and Willow Wren Turkal, who worked from 2021-2022.