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Judge says laid-off Twitter employees can’t sue

Workers didn't opt-out of mandatory arbitration, federal judge rules.

Workers didn't opt-out of mandatory arbitration, federal judge rules.

A federal judge says a group of laid-off Twitter employees cannot sue the company and its new owner, Elon Musk, because they agreed to bring claims to arbitration instead of a courtroom when they were hired.

In an order on Friday, the federal judge overseeing the class-action lawsuit said employees had the chance to opt-out of mandatory arbitration to settle claims against Twitter, but failed to do so when they were hired — and now they must take that approach before they can bring a claim before the court.

“Twitter provided signed copies of the agreements, and they are all clear and straightforward,” U.S. District Judge James Donato wrote in his ruling on Friday.

To continue with a court case, the plaintiffs would have to show that the contract to which they agreed to arbitration is invalid — which, he wrote, they didn’t do in this case.

The employees who sued Twitter are Emmanuel Cornet, Justine De Caires, Grae Kindel, Alexis Camacho and Jessica Pan. The majority of the former employees were software engineers with the social media company; all were laid off after technology mogul Elon Musk closed his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter in late October 2022.

In a statement on Friday, employment attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan said the judge’s ruling was anticipated, adding that “we have already filed 500 individual arbitration demands, and counting.”

“This is not a win for Elon Musk,” Liss-Riordan asserted. “Twitter still has to answer claims in court, on top of the arbitration battles.”

Prior to his takeover, Musk said he hoped to trim Twitter’s workforce in order to curb exorbitant hiring and spending at the social media company, a move that he basically carried out after his acquisition was complete. The move left Twitter with a skeleton crew of engineers, who suddenly found themselves building out new features that Musk concocted on a near-daily basis, while maintaining a website that was teetering on the brink of non-operation.

Some core Twitter functions have already broken, including a security feature that allows users to receive two-factor authentication codes by text message. The feature stopped working in mid-November, and continues to be non-operational for many affected users.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).