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Women sue Musk’s Twitter alleging discriminatory layoffs

Twitter headquarters in San Francisco, California, on Nov, 29, 2022.David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

SAN FRANCISCO — Two women who lost their jobs at Twitter when billionaire Elon Musk took over are suing the company in federal court, claiming that last month’s abrupt mass layoffs disproportionately affected female employees.

The discrimination lawsuit is the latest in a series of legal challenges over Musk's decimation of Twitter's workforce through mass layoffs and firings.

Days after the world’s richest man bought the social media platform for $44 billion, the company told about half of employees on Nov. 4 that they no longer had a job but would get three months severance. The lawsuit filed in a San Francisco federal court this week alleges that 57 percent of female employees were laid off, compared to less than half of men, despite Twitter employing more men overall before the layoffs.

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The cutbacks continued throughout November as Musk fired engineers who questioned or criticized him and gave all remaining employees the choice to resign with severance or sign a form pledging “extremely hardcore” work and dedication to Twitter's new direction. Scores more lost their jobs after declining to make the pledge.

San Francisco-based Twitter started the year with about 7,500 employees worldwide, according to a filing with securities regulators. Now a private company, it hasn’t disclosed how many are left. Twitter didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

The lawsuit filed late Wednesday for former employees Carolina Bernal Strifling and Willow Wren Turkal on behalf of similarly-situated female workers makes the claim that 57 percent of female employees were laid off on Nov. 4, compared to 47 percent of male employees. The plaintiffs are scheduled to speak about the lawsuit on Thursday.

The gap is even greater for women in engineering-related roles — 63 percent were laid off, compared to 48 percent of men with engineering roles, according to the lawsuit filed by prominent Boston workers’ rights attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan, who ran an unsuccessful Democratic primary campaign for Massachusetts attorney general earlier this year.

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“The mass termination of employees at Twitter has impacted female employees to a much greater extent than male employees – and to a highly statistically significant degree,” Liss-Riordan wrote. “Moreover, Elon Musk has made a number of publicly discriminatory remarks about women, further confirming that the mass termination’s greater impact on female employees resulted from discrimination.”