After a months-long process from which he attempted to withdraw multiple times, Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter was made official at the end of October 2022. Musk took the social media site private for $44 billion, 38% more than it was valued at the time. While he had big plans for the company, Musk’s tenure as owner has seen less than stellar results.
This may be related to the fact that his first actions included firing the company’s CEO, CFO, and general counsel. These were the people who had been responsible for managing the top-level activities of the company and maintaining compliance with critical federal and international legislation for years. It should be no surprise that the company’s actions after those critical firings have resulted in multiple class-action lawsuits
After he fired the top-level counsel and management, Musk proceeded to lay off thousands of workers. Before his ownership, the company had more than 7,300 employees. Within two weeks of buying the company, Musk laid off 50% of the staff, or about 3,700 workers in total, with a few days of rumors providing many fired workers their only notice.
This immediately led the fired staff to file class action lawsuits against Twitter. Both California, where Twitter’s headquarters are located, and the federal government have laws known as “Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification” (WARN) Acts, intended to protect workers against surprise layoffs. It appears likely that at least some of the fired individuals did not receive appropriate notice.
In addition, women fired from Twitter have sued the company for alleged workplace discrimination. According to the lawsuit, women were 20% more likely to be fired than men in general layoffs and 30% more likely to be fired if they were on engineering teams. Finally, disabled workers are suing because Musk’s orders that employees must “work long hours at high intensity” or lose their jobs are discriminatory.
This influx of lawsuits from employees likely could have been prevented had Musk taken a more measured approach to make changes. However, as it stands, the Twitter layoffs are an excellent example of how not to perform mass firings. Here’s what you can learn from the Twitter situation about your rights under federal and California anti-layoff laws.
What is the California Warn Act?
WARN Act laws on the federal and state level are intended to prevent major employers from firing large numbers of workers on a whim. Under federal law, employers with more than 100 employees are to provide at least 60 days’ notice to workers before firing 50 or more workers at a single site of employment or the lower of at least a third of the workforce or 500 or more workers across the company.
California’s Cal-WARN Act is even more strict. It applies to any company with at least 75 employees in the state. Furthermore, it requires these companies to provide 60 days’ notice any time they intend to fire 50 or more workers within 30 days, regardless of the percentage of the workforce affected or where they work. It also requires advance notice if companies intend to need 50 or more workers to relocate at least 100 miles away, which may be necessary for Twitter workers after nearly three years of a generous work-from-home policy.
While Twitter had sent out WARN notices to approximately a thousand workers as of Friday, November 5th, the company did not initially provide similar notice to the other employees who were also laid off. This is a clear violation of both federal and state WARN laws. While the company has the employees agreed to arbitration in employment disputes like this, it is yet to be seen whether it will be successful in having these class action lawsuits dismissed. The company has not yet responded to the lawsuits alleging discrimination.
What Employees Can Do About Unjust Layoffs
While the situation at Twitter is confusing and stressful for the employees involved, it does provide other workers a clear step-by-step demonstration of how to take a stand against layoffs that violate WARN and fair employment regulations:
- Consult with an attorney: WARN Act laws are complex. If you and many coworkers have been laid off without notice, your first step should be to discuss your situation with an experienced employment law attorney. They will advise you on your rights and the best path forward.
- Confirm that your employer is covered under the Cal-WARN Act: If you work in California, your employer is more likely to be covered under the Cal-WARN Act. Your attorney will help you verify whether your workplace is required to comply with California anti-layoff laws.
- Verify the number of affected employees: Next, your attorney will investigate the number of fired workers to see if the size of the layoff met the threshold to require notice.
- Check whether you are eligible for protection: Your lawyer will also help you determine if you are protected by these laws. For example, you may not qualify if you worked for your company for less than six months or were on a specific short-term contract.
- File a class-action claim: If your employer is required to report layoffs and did not provide WARN notice before firing more than 50 protected workers, your attorney can help you file a class-action lawsuit against your employer. You can pursue compensation for the two months of employment and other losses you’ve suffered.
Stand Up for Fair Employment in California
California and federal laws are intended to protect workers from massive unannounced layoffs. If your employer acted like Twitter, you might have grounds to pursue compensation for yourself and your coworkers for the unjust layoffs. At Le Clerc & Le Clerc LLP, we have the skills and resources to help you take a stand against unfair and illegal firings. Schedule your consultation to discuss your situation and learn more about how we can assist you.