The news media have covered seemingly every development in the turmoil at Twitter since billionaire Elon Musk took over the company this fall. Still, in all the thousands of words written about the takeover, one aspect of the story has been somewhat overlooked.
As observers know, the social media site’s new owner terminated about half of the jobs at the company soon after taking over. However, these job cuts did not necessarily fall evenly among all classes of employees.
According to a new lawsuit, 57% of Twitter’s female employees lost their jobs in the past two months, compared to less than 50% of male employees. The plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit allege discrimination on the basis of sex.
Discrepancies in layoffs
It’s notable that, according to the lawsuit, Twitter employed more men than women before the layoffs began.
And the discrepancy can’t necessarily be explained by men and women having different job duties. According to the lawsuit, 63% of women engineers lost their jobs this fall, compared to just 48% of male engineers.
The lawsuit notes that Musk demanded that all employees commit to an “extremely hardcore” work ethic if they hoped to remain with the company. The plaintiffs argue that this type of commitment is harder on women, who are more likely than men to have caregiving roles at home. As a result, this edict, whether intentionally or not, had a discriminatory effect on women employees.
Employment law recognizes that sometimes an employer’s action that seems to be equally applied to all employees can nonetheless have a disparate impact on a certain class of employees, and that this disparate impact can be unlawful discrimination.
This type of discrimination may or may not be intentional on the part of the employer. However, in these cases, plaintiffs don’t necessarily have to prove that the employer intended to discriminate based on the employees’ protected status.
The legal issues in these cases can be extremely complex, as can the factual issues. Both workers and employers can benefit from consulting with experienced attorneys.