Twitter's cold layoff process and the law

Even before Elon Musk, Twitter employees were already looking at possible layoffs, but not on the scale new owner Musk has envisioned; a huge number still unknown, but likely in the thousands. It could be between 1,000 to 5,000 layoffs.

Musk's roller-coaster takeover of Twitter has already raised lots of concerns and doubts about its future, especially mass firings by e-mail. 

"Usually when people are laid off or fired it's done in person. It must be terrifying for Twitter employees. It's bad enough they're gonna be let go, some of them.  But, to have but to have this 'pins and needles' must be very difficult for a lot of people right now," said veteran tech analyst Larry Magid.

Musk also appears to have acted too quickly, violating state and federal mass layoff laws. 

"If they're laying off a certain number of employees, it needs to provide a 60-day notice and the employees may be eligible for back pay up to the 60 days," said labor lawyer and former California Employment Development Department Director Michael Bernick.

Labor attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan, who's already sued Musk for not informing legions of laid-off Tesla employees of their rights, filed a preemptive lawsuit against Twitter and Musk for the same thing. "We are very concerned that Elon Musk was not going to care about Federal or state labor protections for workers who are subject to mass layoffs," said Liss-Riordan.

It appears Musk blinked. "We know that a number of employees have now gotten notices that their separation date will be January 4th; so, that they will get paid for another two months," said Liss-Riordan. They're also supposed to get stock equity payments promised to them by the purchase agreement. If any of this was done by discrimination, the lawsuit will stand.

FILE - In this photo illustration, the image of Elon Musk is displayed on a computer screen and the logo of twitter on a mobile phone. (Muhammed Selim Korkutata / Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Musk tweeted Friday that everyone exited was offered three months of severance, which is 50% more than legally required. He claimed he has no choice but to lay off workers when the company is "losing over $4M a day." 

A city supervisor indicated on Musk's social media platform that Twitter had sent city officials its Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) notice Friday afternoon. "'Approximately 784 employees at the SF office will be terminated' beginning Jan. 4, 2023." Those workers facing unemployment were encouraged to get in touch with San Francisco's Office of Economic Workforce Development for guidance. 

Since Musk began his takeover, many Twitter advertisers are gone, opting to sit on the sidelines, watching what Twitter turns into. "This doesn't seem right because we've made no change in our operations at all. Moderation rules and hateful conduct rules have not changed, and we are continuing to enforce them." said Musk at a conference on Friday.

Even Musk concedes, his proposed $8-a-month membership fee to replace lost ad revenues, will be a tough sell, raising the potential fate of social media pioneer MySpace. "I think it's possible that Twitter could fail if Musk makes the kind of changes that pushes a lot of people away," said tech analyst Magid.

SEE ALSO: Twitter begins widespread layoffs; class action suit filed