Elon Musk’s X Faces Legal Battle as Judge Rejects Motion to Dismiss Age Discrimination Lawsuit Stemming from 2022 Layoffs

A federal judge in California has declined to dismiss a lawsuit against X, the social media service previously known as Twitter. The lawsuit alleges that when Elon Musk took over the company last year, X unfairly laid off a disproportionate number of older employees.

US District Judge Susan Illston ruled on Tuesday that the plaintiff, John Zeman, had presented sufficient evidence to support his claim that the layoffs had a more significant impact on older workers. As a result, the case will continue to move forward. For instance, Zeman asserts that X terminated 60 per cent of employees aged 50 or older and nearly three-quarters of those above the age of 60. In contrast, only 54 per cent of workers under 50 years old were let go.

Judge Illston has ruled that under federal law prohibiting age bias in the workplace, plaintiffs can bring forth claims of “disparate impact” in class action cases. This issue has caused a split among various courts.

The judge dismissed a specific allegation that company X intentionally singled out older employees for layoffs. However, Zeman has been granted a month’s time to revise the lawsuit and provide more details regarding this particular claim.

Legal Challenges and Allegations Surrounding X Amidst CEO Elon Musk’s Workforce Reduction at Twitter

Zeman’s attorney, Shannon Liss-Riordan, expressed that “this decision validates the arguments we are making that the discrimination claims can go forward.”

X, a prominent company in the tech industry, has chosen not to provide a response to a recent request for comment. This development comes amidst a series of legal actions that have emerged, numbering around twelve, which directly involve X. These legal challenges have arisen as a consequence of decisions made by X’s CEO, Elon Musk, who initiated a significant reduction in Twitter’s workforce, starting in the preceding November.

These lawsuits encompass a variety of allegations directed at X, ranging from claims of inadequate adherence to mandated protocols for employee layoffs to contentions that Elon Musk played a role in excluding employees with disabilities by declining to accommodate remote work options. Moreover, some cases assert that Musk’s approach created an environment wherein employees felt compelled to adhere to an excessively demanding work ethic, characterized by the term “hardcore.”

Elon Musk's X Faces Legal Battle as Judge Rejects Motion to Dismiss Age Discrimination Lawsuit Stemming from 2022 Layoffs
Credits: Reuters

A notable aspect of this legal battle is the assertion made in at least two of the lawsuits, wherein the company is accused of owing former employees a collective sum of at least $500 million in severance pay. This substantial figure underscores the gravity of the allegations being levied against X. However, it’s important to note that Twitter, the parent company of X, has categorically denied any wrongdoing or impropriety in relation to these specific cases.

Implications for Labor Rights and Corporate Responsibility in the Tech Industry

Spearheading these legal actions is prominent attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan, who is actively representing a group of approximately 2,000 former Twitter employees who have chosen to take similar legal recourse against the company. These claims, while lodged within the framework of arbitration, echo the sentiments of those who have brought their grievances to the forefront through lawsuits.

In the wake of these legal proceedings, industry analysts and experts are keenly observing the developments, as the outcomes of these cases could potentially set precedents for labour practices within the tech sector and beyond. The intricate web of allegations, responses, and legal strategies employed by all parties involved underscores the complexity of modern labor relations and the evolving responsibilities of corporations towards their employees.

As the legal proceedings continue to unfold, the spotlight remains on X, Elon Musk, and Twitter, with implications that could extend beyond the realm of legal outcomes and possibly impact the broader discourse surrounding labor rights, corporate responsibility, and the treatment of employees in the tech industry.