Twitter Wins Dismissal of Elon Musk Layoff Gender-Bias Lawsuit, for Now

Twitter Inc. won the dismissal of a lawsuit claiming Elon Musk’s mass layoffs forced a disproportionate number of women to leave the company.

US District Judge Jon Tigar ruled Monday that the plaintiffs had not first attempted to fully resolve their complaint through federal agencies, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Tigar also said the plaintiffs can amend and refile their complaint.

The lawsuit in San Francisco federal court stems from Musk’s move in November to eliminate more than half of Twitter’s head count just after he acquired the company for $44 billion. Female workers were unfairly targeted due to sex discrimination, according to the suit.

The lawsuit was filed by Carolina Bernal Strifling, who lives in Miami and worked for Twitter for seven years, and Willow Wren Turkal of San Jose, California, who worked for the company for less than two years. The plaintiffs sought to bring a class action on behalf of women who they argue were unfairly and improperly fired.

Shannon Liss-Riordan, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said she will refile a new complaint to meet the judge’s requirements. “The ultimate decision-maker in these layoffs, Elon Musk, has a history of making hostile and demeaning comments about women,” Liss-Riodan said in an email. One such comment she cited was: “it is more important for women to have babies than careers.”

Tigar ruled the women also failed to allege that Twitter engaged in a “pattern or practice of discrimination.” They attempted to establish such a pattern by arguing that Musk, not Twitter, implemented a reduction-in-force, or RIF, with a policy requiring employees to work more hours and in physical offices, rather than remotely, according to the opinion.

RIF and the policy are “two discrete acts” that don’t support claims that discrimination was a routine and regular part of Twitter’s workplace, the judge said. And even if it were, the statistics offered in the lawsuit along with Musk’s statements, don’t support the claim that letting managers decide who should be fired would result in discrimination, Tigar said.

Twitter Faces More Legal Fallout Over Worker Firings Under Musk

The lawsuit included Musk’s public statements belittling women and questioning their role in the workplace. But “isolated remarks, unrelated to the discriminatory employment decision, are generally insufficient to establish discriminatory intent,” the judge said.

Tigar agreed with the plaintiffs that Twitter delegated layoff decisions to a small group of managers, who failed to properly consider “objective criteria” such as job performance, qualifications, experience, and abilities in their decisions.

“It is not hard to make the connection as to why the managers acting closely under his supervision laid off more of the women at Twitter, particularly female engineers, than men,” Liss-Riordan said, adding that she is pushing forward with seven other class-actions against Twitter and almost 2,000 arbitrations on behalf of employees whose rights, she says, have been violated since Musk bought the company.

The case is Strifling v. Twitter, 22-cv-07739, US District Court for the Northern District of California (San Francisco).


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