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Twitter employees sue over lack of 60-day layoff notice

Musk-owned companies have now faced 3 WARN Act lawsuits alleging the same thing

The great Twitter cull of '22 is expected to begin today, but a group of tweeps have preempted the event by filing a class action lawsuit against Twitter for violating the WARN Act.

Filed yesterday on behalf of five named plaintiffs "and all others similarly situated" in Musk's layoff sights, the suit accuses Twitter of terminating employees without the 60-day notice for mass layoffs, which the US Department of Labor defines [PDF] as including ditching at least 50 employees that make up at least a third of a company's workforce within a 30-day period. Pay for 60 days can be given in lieu of that notice.

The WARN Act also specifies that the sale of a company resulting in mass layoffs or plant closures is included – in other words, WARN applies to Twitter layoffs no matter how you slice the situation.

Per the lawsuit [PDF], Twitter initiated mass layoffs before the 50 percent cuts reportedly beginning today in which the five named plaintiffs were caught up. While they've already lost their jobs, the lawsuit alleges the five "are very concerned that Twitter will continue these layoffs without providing the requisite notice."

Not Musk's first WARNing

Other companies owned by Musk have twice before been accused of violating the WARN Act's 60-day layoff notice requirement: in 2014 when SpaceX employees sued over a mass layoff at the company's plant in Hawthorne, California, and again earlier this year when Tesla cut jobs at its Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada.

SpaceX settled its WARN dispute in 2016 with a $4 million payout divided up among 4,100 employees, and the Tesla suit in Nevada was dismissed on the grounds that the plaintiffs had agreed to enter into arbitration, forcing the issue out of court.

In the Twitter case, the plaintiffs are asking that the blue bird and its owner be forced to conform to the federal and California WARN Acts, which both specify a mandatory 60-day notification period ahead of mass layoffs. The plaintiffs are also asking for compensatory damages, including expenses and wages owed.

That's not a big ask from the WARN Act, and conforms to the Department of Labor's penalties for violating it, which hold that a guilty company "is liable to each aggrieved employee for an amount including back pay and benefits for the period of violation, up to 60 days." 

That's a lot of cash owed to a lot of employees if Musk fails to wriggle out of this one – just add it to the mountain of debt he and his financiers took on with the purchase, which is sure to be great for the future of the internet's privately owned town square. ®

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