A group of former employees suing Elon Musk’s Twitter scored an early win Wednesday when a judge ordered the company to inform any laid-off staffers of the pending lawsuit. The move ensures workers will be better informed before they are required to sign a severance agreement that includes a release of legal claims.
The former employees, who were among the thousands terminated last month during mass layoffs following Musk’s takeover, have accused Twitter of reneging on promises to allow remote work and provide consistent severance benefits after the acquisition. The lawsuit, which is seeking class action status, also alleges that for at least one recently laid off employee, Twitter did not provide sufficient notice required by federal and California laws, nor was the employee offered additional pay in lieu of the notice
In granting the motion Wednesday, James Donato, the California district court judge overseeing the case, said Twitter’s communications with employees “should not be rendered misleading by omitting material information about a pending lawsuit.”
Twitter, which recently laid off much of its communications department, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the order. The company has not previously commented on the lawsuit.
The order may be an early indication that the judge could be sympathetic to the employees’ argument. It comes after Musk laid off around half of Twitter’s staff last month in an effort to slash costs following his $44 billion acquisition of the social media company. He later pushed out additional employees, asking remaining workers to agree to an ultimatum to work “hardcore” or leave the company.
Shannon Liss-Riordan, the attorney bringing the suit against Twitter on behalf of the former employees, said in a statement that the order is a “basic but important step that will provide employees with the opportunity to more fully understand their rights instead of just signing them away, and potentially signing away money they are owed, under pressure from Musk.”
The lawsuit is one of four that Liss-Riordan has filed on behalf of former Twitter employees. The others include complaints related to alleged disability and gender-based discrimination, as well as a suit on behalf of Twitter contractors who were laid off. The employees are seeking unspecified monetary damages, as well as a ruling that Twitter violated the California and federal WARN Acts requiring advanced notice of mass layoffs.
“It seems like the layoffs have been done in a way that’s really clumsy and inhumane and potentially illegal … and this is the aftermath,” one of the former employees suing Twitter, engineer Emmanuel Cornet, said during a press conference last week.