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Twitter must notify laid-off workers of pending lawsuit, judge rules

Published 12/15/2022, 11:04 AM
Updated 12/15/2022, 11:33 AM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The Twitter logo is seen outside the offices in New York City, U.S., November 9, 2022. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo
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By Daniel Wiessner

(Reuters) - Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) must notify the thousands of workers who were laid off after its acquisition by Elon Musk of a proposed class action accusing the company of failing to give adequate notice before terminating them, a San Francisco federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge James Donato in a three-page order on Wednesday said that before asking workers to sign severance agreements waiving their ability to sue the company, Twitter must give them "a succinct and plainly worded notice" of the lawsuit filed last month.

Twitter laid off roughly 3,700 employees in early November in a cost-cutting measure by Musk, the world's richest person, and hundreds more subsequently resigned.

The lawsuit says Twitter failed to give the 60 days notice required by federal and California laws before engaging in mass layoffs. Twitter has denied wrongdoing.

Donato in the ruling said asking workers to waive legal claims against Twitter without telling them about the lawsuit would be misleading.

Twitter had agreed not to seek releases from laid-off workers pending Donato's decision.

Shannon Liss-Riordan, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, called the decision "a basic but important step that will provide employees with the opportunity to more fully understand their rights instead of just signing them away."

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.

The company had argued that notice was unnecessary because most of its employees had signed agreements requiring them to bring legal disputes in arbitration and waiving their ability to join class actions against the company.

Donato is scheduled to hold a hearing next month on Twitter's motion to send the case to arbitration. The plaintiffs amended their complaint this month to add workers who say they never signed arbitration agreements.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The Twitter logo is seen outside the offices in New York City, U.S., November 9, 2022. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

Twitter is facing three other proposed class actions in the same court over the layoffs. The lawsuits accuse Twitter of failing to give contract workers notice before laying them off and discriminating against women and employees with disabilities. The company has not responded to those claims.

Liss-Riordan, who is involved in all of the lawsuits, has said she could bring additional employment claims against Twitter, including if the company denies severance pay to laid-off workers. She also said last week that she would defend workers if Musk follows through on a reported threat to sue employees who leak confidential information to the press.

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