Twitter’s Elon Musk has been warned to prepare for ‘hundreds, if not thousands’ of arbitration cases.

Chief executive Elon Musk has been looking to completely rebuild Twitter since buying the company in October, which has led to a series of lawsuits. (Jae C. Hong/Associated Press)

Standing outside the San Francisco federal courthouse in San Francisco, Elon Musk had a message: They won’t back down.

“The richest man in the world is not above the law,” said Liss-Riordan, whose team is representing clients in four different class-action lawsuits against Twitter.

After Elon Musk took control of the social media giant in October, he followed through on his promise of massive layoffs and a complete restructuring of the company. Even as managers and employees resigned, he issued an ultimatum: commit to the new, “hardcore” Twitter 2.0, where employees were expected to work long hours or take three months off work.

Claims came immediately.

As questions continue to swirl around Musk’s next move, former employees are looking through their lawyers to get the benefits they deserve after the tumultuous takeover. But they have a long way to go before they see any results – in part because there remains a lot of uncertainty about how they will proceed.

The first job was announced a day before Twitter’s first round of massive layoffs on November 4, with Emmanuel Cornet as one of the top contenders. Kornet was the first employee fired from Twitter and also filed a lawsuit against the National Labor Relations Board for unfair labor practices. The suit alleges that Cornet was part of the layoffs and did not receive proper notice under the federal and state Workforce Adjustment and Retraining Notice Act or severance pay.

The latest case, filed Wednesday, alleges the company disproportionately targeted women for layoffs. The complaint cited a report that found 57% of female employees and 47% of male employees were fired on Nov. 4, which was statistically significant.

Liss-Riordan also represents Dmitry Borodaenko, the lead plaintiff in a case against the company alleging discrimination against disabled employees. Borodaenko, a cancer survivor who is vulnerable to COVID-19, said he was fired after refusing to return to the office.

Despite the legal challenges that have already begun, much depends on two key court decisions that will determine what kind of litigation workers can pursue.

First, the court is expected to rule early next week on Liss-Riordan’s Nov. 9 emergency motion in Cornet’s case. Although the laid-off employees have not yet received their official severance contracts from the company, Twitter said it will sign a claim form for employees to receive their severance pay. Liss-Riordan said signing the document would prevent former employees from taking legal action.

The emergency action would prevent Twitter from seeking those releases without notifying employees of a pending class action lawsuit and contact information for legal counsel. A similar motion was filed in the case against Tesla, which required the automaker to notify laid-off employees of pending litigation.

The second ruling, set for a hearing in January, centers around the arbitration agreements that most Twitter employees signed as part of their employment.

This clause requires employees who have legal claims against Twitter to arbitrate individually, barring them from participating in or benefiting from any class action brought against the company. Twitter filed a motion to enforce this agreement, which Liss-Riordan opposed.

Liss-Riordan said her team is prepared to help bring hundreds of arbitration cases against the company if the court chooses to enforce the arbitration agreement.

“We’ll show you one by one, and then we’ll introduce hundreds, if not thousands, of individual cases,” he said.

Liss-Riordan said he has conducted similar mass arbitration campaigns against companies such as IBM, which require employees to sign arbitration agreements, and has successfully enforced them.

Some former Twitter employees have already taken the arbitration route. Former employee Helen Sage-Lee, assisted by her attorney Lisa Bloom, filed a lawsuit claiming that the terms of Musk’s deal to buy Twitter required him to provide a severance package and benefits that were “no less favorable” than he had promised. management of at least one year ago.

According to the laid-off workers, the pre-acquisition package offered at least two months’ severance pay, as well as prorated performance bonuses, extended visa support, money for continuation of health care and the cash value of equity to be awarded over three months. as well as company documents reviewed by The Times.

Two of the class action lawsuits filed by Liss-Riordan are based on similar arguments. Although workers were offered two months’ pay during the “non-working” period to comply with the federal NOTICE Act, which requires 60 days’ notice of mass layoffs, Liss-Riordan argued that it did not count toward the actual layoffs promised to workers.

Twitter, which no longer has an official communications team, could not be reached for comment.

While some are preparing for protracted legal battles, not everyone is ready to fight a legal battle just yet. A number of former Twitter employees are still biding their time while consulting with attorneys and evaluating their options.

An engineering manager who was among those laid off on Nov. 4 said he was concerned that some were still following employee guidelines because they were still on non-work periods and connected to Twitter when they weren’t actually working for the company.

“So even though we’re not working, we have to act like employees right now,” he said. “The last thing I want is to be fired for cause.”

The employee said that he is most interested in the date of the next shares, that is, February 1. The terms of the merger agreement must protect the capital acquired for three months, which may be more expensive than before for many employees on the technical side. one month’s salary.

“For me, that would be the main reason I would consider joining a lawsuit if it wasn’t delivered as promised,” he said.

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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