I quit Twitter in about 2016. The politics was too noisy, and I decided it was not healthy for me. I haven’t missed it. Once in a while, I’ll check in to see if anyone else’s power or cable is out in my neck of the woods. And sometimes I’ll look in to find out how a team is doing in a CIAC tournament game. But that is about it.
Twitter, though, seems to remain a valuable brand in social media given that Elon Musk recently purchased it for $44 billion and took it private. In the month or so that he has owned it, he has been in the midst of making big changes to Twitter’s operations. He has slashed jobs and changed parts of the business model. Not all of the changes have brought great results, but he seems to be working on it.
He first laid off half of the 7,500-person work force, fired others who were critical of his leadership, and then announced that the company was bleeding cash with a bleak outlook in the near term.
This past week it was reported that he had sent an email to the remaining employees inquiring about whether they still wanted to continue working for the beleaguered company. He reportedly told them that if they did not share his vision for the company, they should leave their jobs. He reportedly promised them a three-month severance package if they chose to leave. For those who decided to stay, he warned them that they would need to be “extremely hardcore,” working “long hours at high intensity.” He wrote that only “exceptional performance” would be acceptable for the company.
It sounds terrible to me. I suspect a revolt is coming. I can see the company shedding workers rapidly. In a post-Covid working world, I don’t see folks readily signing up for long hours and high intensity. This is particularly true at a company that has formed its own culture and presumably figured out how to build and sell its services.
It is likely that lots of lawsuits are going to follow.
But I am not so sure how successful those lawsuits are going to be. California, like almost all states, is an at-will work state. That means employers and employees agree that the employment relationship can be ended by either party at any time for any reason. There are, of course, restrictions.
For example, while an employer is not required to have a good reason to fire an employee, an employer cannot have an illegal reason for firing an employee. An illegal reason would be terminating an employee because of the employee’s age, disability, religion, race or membership in other protected classes. Anti-discrimination laws restrict the at-will employment agreement between workers and employers.
But in the case of Twitter, it does not appear that employees who are let go are going to be terminated for any reason other their unwillingness to commit to longer and more difficult hours.
However, for workers who are disabled and who require reasonable accommodations like flexible schedules or work hours, there may be a case for them.
In any event don’t be surprised to start hearing about lawsuits from employees against Twitter in the coming weeks. The chaos is like to continue for some time.