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Musk’s Twitter Demands Allegedly Biased Against Disabled Workers

Nov. 17, 2022, 2:22 PM

Elon Musk‘s demands that Twitter Inc. employees return to the office and be prepared to log “long hours at high intensity” discriminate against disabled workers and has led to their firing or forced resignations, a new class lawsuit filed in San Francisco charges.

Dmitry Borodaenko, a former engineering manager, says that’s what happened to him, as he was fired soon after telling his boss that he wanted to continue working from home because he’s a cancer survivor and especially vulnerable to Covid-19, according to the suit.

Borodaenko seeks to represent a class of disabled Twitter current and former workers nationwide who’ve suffered similar discrimination as a result of Musk’s actions since assuming the helm at the social media giant.

The lawsuit is the latest challenge over working conditions at Twitter after Musk acquired the company. Twitter is currently facing lawsuits alleging it failed to give proper notice of layoffs to workers and contractors in violation of federal law.

Soon after completing his purchase of Twitter, Musk declared that remote work would no longer be allowed, “with only rare exceptions for ‘exceptional’ employees,” Borodaenko says in the suit filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California on Wednesday. That discriminates against disabled employees who can perform their jobs with or without reasonable accommodation but who weren’t allowed to continue working, the suit says.

Disabled employees were either terminated or forced to resign after being required to accept working under unreasonable circumstances, the suit says.

Musk’s mandate that remaining employees must be prepared to work long, high intensity hours, which employees were required to accept or they would be viewed as having submitted their resignations, was “highly discriminatory against disabled employees,” the suit says. Many disabled employees won’t be able to meet the “new heightened standard of performance and productivity,” the suit says.

Boradaenko also says Twitter has indicated that workers who don’t accept Musk’s mandates will receive a severance package. But there’s concern that they’ll be forced to provide legal releases in order to obtain the package. That’s what happened to workers at Musk’s Tesla Inc., the suit says.

Causes of Action: Americans with Disabilities Act; California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.

Relief: Order enjoining Twitter from seeking releases of claims from employees as part of severance offer without first notifying them of their legal rights and providing them with contact information for the company’s legal counsel; order reinstating disabled employees who want to return to their jobs with reasonable accommodations; compensatory and other damages; pre- and post-judgment interest; attorneys’ fees and costs.

Response: Twitter didn’t immediately respond Thursday to Bloomberg Law’s request for comment.

Attorneys: Lichten & Liss-Riordan PC represents Borodaenko and the proposed class.

The case is Borodaenko v. Twitter, Inc., N.D. Cal., No. 3:22-cv-07226, class complaint 11/16/22.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Dorrian in Washington at pdorrian@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Carmen Castro-Pagán at ccastro-pagan@bloomberglaw.com