Ex-Twitter Employees Speak Out About 'Inhumane' Layoffs as Legal Woes Mount

The latest lawsuit against Twitter alleges the company's layoffs targeted women.

Queenie Wong Former Senior Writer
Queenie Wong was a senior writer for CNET News, focusing on social media companies including Facebook's parent company Meta, Twitter and TikTok. Before joining CNET, she worked for The Mercury News in San Jose and the Statesman Journal in Salem, Oregon. A native of Southern California, she took her first journalism class in middle school.
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Queenie Wong
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Shannon Liss-Riordan, a labor lawyer who is representing ex-Twitter employees, speaks at a press conference with the workers in San Francisco.

Shannon Liss-Riordan, a labor lawyer who is representing ex-Twitter employees, speaks at a press conference with the workers in San Francisco. 

Queenie Wong/CNET

Four former Twitter employees who are suing the social media platform spoke out publicly on Thursday about how the mass layoffs unfolded, alleging the company violated workers' rights. 

"It seems like those layoffs have been done in a way that's very clumsy and inhumane and potentially illegal," Emmanuel "Manu" Cornet, a former Twitter engineer, said at a press conference outside the Phillip Burton Federal Building & United States Courthouse in San Francisco. 

Twitter laid off Cornet in November after billionaire Elon Musk took over the influential social media platform. Cornet along with other former Twitter employees allege in a lawsuit that the company violated federal and California labor laws that require employers provide a written warning of a mass layoff to workers 60 days in advance.

Twitter's legal woes have continued to pile up after Musk's takeover. Twitter axed more than half of the company's 7,500 workers as Musk has tried to cut costs. 

Shannon Liss-Riordan, a labor lawyer representing the former Twitter employees, filed four lawsuits seeking class action status against the company on behalf of the ex-workers, including contractors. Some of the workers include disabled employees who allege that Musk's push for workers to be more "hardcore" and work from the office forced them to leave their jobs because of health concerns. 

"Buying this company seems to have been a bit of a toy for Elon Musk, the richest man in the world, but there are people's lives at stake here," Liss-Riordan said.

The latest lawsuit, filed on Wednesday, alleges that Twitter's layoffs "impacted female employees to a much greater extent than male employees." Twitter laid off 57% of its female employees compared with 47% of its male employees, according to the lawsuit.

"It's not a huge surprise, unfortunately, that women were hit so hard by these layoffs when Elon Musk was the one overseeing these incredibly ad hoc layoffs," Liss-Riordan said.

Twitter, which laid off its communications department, didn't respond to a request for comment on the lawsuits. 

Some of the laid off workers said they are participating in the lawsuits to help some of their friends and former colleagues.

Willow Wren Turkal, a former engineer at Twitter who is one of the lead plaintiffs in the gender discrimination lawsuit, said she knows former workers at Twitter who have families to support, visa issues or are just starting their careers.

"I want them to come out of this getting what is due to them," she said.