back to article Lawsuit: We've got the stats to prove Twitter ax fell unfairly on older, female engineers

Twitter has been sued by seven former employees who allege they were discriminated against on the basis of sex, age, race, and/or for taking medical leave. The complaint [PDF], filed in federal court in Oakland, California, claims parent biz X Corp violated America's Family Medical Leave Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the Age …

  1. sarusa Silver badge

    A tough sell

    This will be a tough sell because it's hardly the worst thing Elmo's Twitter has done and gotten away with. And then there was IBM, which got away with much larger scale very obvious age discrimination (with recordings and emails between IBM execs admitting they were doing it and needed to do more of it, now).

    Sadly, the bad guys with the bottomless legal pockets (IBM, Oracle, Twitter, etc.) usually win, or at worst 'lose' but the penalty is a tiny fraction of the money they made doing it so they're effectively rewarded for their evil deeds. Elmo should be held liable here, but given past history I find it hard to actually believe he will be.

    Of course I could name a lot of other corporations and people there (Exxon-Mobil, AT&T), these are just a limited few in a specific industry - otherwise this comment would be two pages long.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: A tough sell

      I think Twitter's legal pockets are anything but bottomless.

      Of course, layoffs are regularly unfair in the so-called Land of the Free, especially when big names are concerned, but Twitter's financial freedom has never been great, and the arrival of the chief twat didn't help things by far.

      The fact that Musk has stopped paying his bills is telling. A company that doesn't pay its bills is a company that is going to shut down. And that is going to happen now that there are lawyers getting involved pushing judges to force Twitter to pay.

      The bonfire is growing, get your marshmallows now !

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: Musk about to do a fire sale?

        And sell off all that twat stuff?

        As for paying his bills? Fat chance of that. He's learned from Trump how to get away with it. Trumpo has a record going back decades of stiffing anyone who dares do business with him.

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: A tough sell

        If the court does compel X to pay for arbitration, that's going to hurt. It'll be a lot harder for them to dodge those bills. And similarly for severance and so forth.

    2. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: A tough sell

      The age discrimination one is kinda flimsy. 54% vs 46% is not a big difference, especially when you account for the fact that the older ones were almost certainly paid more and THAT was probably what they discriminated on (and discriminating on salary alone, without intent to use it a as a backdoor method of discriminating by age, is perfectly legal)

      1. xyz Silver badge

        Re: A tough sell

        >> 54% vs 46% is not a big difference, especially when you account for the fact that the older ones were almost certainly....

        You talking about Brexit?

        1. Little Mouse Silver badge

          Re: A tough sell

          Don't be silly - Brexit was much more decisive than that (52% vs 48%)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: A tough sell

            Little Mouse: "Don't be silly - Brexit was much more decisive than that (52% vs 48%)"

            But it was worth voting leave simply to enjoy the incandescence of the remain faction.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: A tough sell

              But it was worth voting leave simply to enjoy the incandescence of the remain faction.

              Do you sit in your garden playing with your own faeces just to see the look of disgust from your neighbours, hmm?

            2. BobTheIntern

              Re: A tough sell

              Just as it would be worth burning your house down to enjoy the incandescence of you being consumed by the flames.

      2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: A tough sell

        Yes, and I think the key argument will be "to save the business".

        But these are probably just negotiating tactics to enforce severance payments and arbitration. Musk knows all about delaying tactics through court actions and civil suits are all about the money.

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: A tough sell

        "The age discrimination one is kinda flimsy."

        For a start it relies on a magic limit. 49-year-olds who were fired might feel miffed at being left out of the claim. It would have been interesting to have seen how the percentages compared in each ten-year group.

        1. DS999 Silver badge

          Re: A tough sell

          I'll go out on a limb and guess that the 50 year threshold was chosen by the lawyers because it had the largest disparity, versus using 45 or 55.

          1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

            Re: A tough sell

            Almost certainly, which would make xkcd 882 significant.

    3. low_resolution_foxxes

      Re: A tough sell

      It makes me cringe when people use statistics like this.

      If anything, the use of statistics in this context indicates to me that the person does not fully grasp statistical analysis (or intentionally abuses it).

      Yes, I'm sure there are differences in the data, but these aren't causal indicators. But to make the assumption the differences are directly because the person has age/racial/gender characteristics is so painfully stupid it hurts.

      I suspect it's more likely to be about older technical employees earning high salaries, with the rest split out between attitude, key technical staff ratios and work ethic.

  2. LybsterRoy Silver badge

    I am reminded of the comment:

    There are lies, damned lies and statistics

  3. trevorde Silver badge

    No win, no fee!

    Lawyers win the case but Musk refuses to pay. It's a lose/lose scenario.

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: No win, no fee!

      Normally the owner of a company is not personally responsible for his company's debts. If the owner treats the company as an extension of himself then creditors may be able to pierce the corporate veil - in this case collect debts by taking Musk's Tesla (and perhaps SpaceX) shares. Musk has been working his way through the "Don't be that stupid" list and ticking all the required boxes to allow piercing the corporate veil. On that basis, a lawyer might well take a "no win, no fee" case against xtwitter.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: No win, no fee!

        "Normally the owner of a company is not personally responsible for his company's debts."

        A sole proprietor is responsible for their company's debts and it's not to difficult to pursue a single person that's formed their company as an LLC (US).

        I expect that it won't be hard to show that Elon is the sole person making the decisions on the running of the company or at least the only one before he brought in Linda so there'd be somebody to throw under the bus.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: No win, no fee!

      As long as the company is involved in legal disputes it might be limited in what it can do. For example, it's going to be difficult to sell or dissolve the company if it's still in court.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: No win, no fee!

        "For example, it's going to be difficult to sell or dissolve the company if it's still in court."

        Not really. A company I used to work for went belly up and filed for bankruptcy with several other lawsuits pending and they all got paused due to the BK.

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: No win, no fee!

          You can declare bankruptcy but disposal of the assets can be a problem till all claims are resolved. And bankruptcy is a very possible exit for Musk to get rid of the debt charges that are eating the cashflow.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: No win, no fee!

            "You can declare bankruptcy but disposal of the assets can be a problem till all claims are resolved."

            The assets in my story have been sold to another company and there are still lawsuits on file and contemplation by the former landlord of filing for back rent against the former execs. The founder may have signed a lease agreement that made him severally liable. That's not an usual move by landlords leasing property to young companies. Really big companies get free buildings and tax abatements.

    3. aerogems Silver badge

      Re: No win, no fee!

      You can have a court order the seizure and sale of assets to settle debts like this. And if there were ever a scenario where piecing the corporate veil might be considered, it is with anything involving Twitler because his whims are the whims of X Corp and Twitter. It'd still be a high bar to clear to get a court to say Twitler is personally responsible for the debts owed for these lawsuits, but they probably have a much better case than someone trying to sue say the IBM CEO if they won a case and IBM refused to pay.

      Having a court judgement also secures your place in line when the Twitter asset firesale starts. Still no guarantee you'll get what you're owed, but you can pick over the carcass with the rest of the vultures... not counting El Reg staffers.

  4. Google

    Didn't Musk require all underlings to sign a commitment effectively saying you're prepared to work night and day? I can imagine fewer women than men putting up with this stuff.

    1. Bebu Silver badge

      I would have thought the opposite?

      《...prepared to work night and day? I can imagine fewer women than men putting up with this stuff.》

      In the real world I would have thought the evidence might suggest more "women than men putting up with this stuff" arguably compelled by their asymmetric circumstances.

      I wouldn't put it past X/Twitter's proprietor petitioning congress to rescind the 13th and 14th amendments - nothing is inconceivable from this nutjob.

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: I would have thought the opposite?

        What "asymmetric circumstances" are those? Unemployment is still at record lows in the US, and tech unemployment is even lower. Anyone working at Twitter male or female would be able to find another job in no time. Maybe not with the same salary if they were getting overpaid for what they did, but even then you don't really HAVE to work those long hours. Just say you will and see how long it takes them to notice, and use the extra time for a longer job search with the expectation that eventually they'll fire you for not demonstrating sufficient worship of god king Musk by working 100 hours a week in his name.

    2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Male or female, I think the correct response is to ask your lawyer about constructive dismissal.

    3. aerogems Silver badge

      Pretty sure what's being discussed here are the mass layoffs that happened before that "hardcore" memo went out to everyone left. Even then, I'd be pretty skeptical of that "agreement" having any legal teeth to it. That's basically like asking someone to agree to an indentured servitude contract or to sign a contract agreeing to be sold into slavery. You can put anything you want into a contract, whether everything you put in that contract is legally enforceable is a whole other story.

      Just my IANAL assessment is that people could make an argument that they're not being paid the CA, or federal, minimum wage for the number of hours they work vs their salaries. And since they're actual employees, not "independent contractors" like gig economy app workers, they are already starting from a much stronger position.

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Of course the agreement doesn't obligate you to work those hours, they put it out there to encourage more quitting since their initial 50% layoffs weren't enough for the level of cost cutting Musk wanted. If your boss put that in front of you and you don't want to do it, you aren't going to say "hey this isn't legal" you're going to see what kind of company it is turning into and either quit immediately or just work normal hours while conducting a job search with the expectation they will eventually fire you for the unforgivable sin of taking weekends off.

    4. doublelayer Silver badge

      From the statements in the article, it appears they're not talking about that. As Musk sees that, the pledges to work long hours at high intensity for no reason was an opt-in situation, where choosing not to was effectively quitting. He was smart enough to realize that, if he denied them things based on that interpretation, he'd end up in court, so he pretended to promise them that opting out would still come with some support. Still, that was a place where people got an option. This case seems to be referring to the people who were fired unilaterally before that choice was presented. He decided that thousands of people weren't good enough to be given that choice, and they didn't get to self-select, even on what is probably an illegal contract. They're alleging discrimination in that first round of firings.

  5. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    The difference in percentages between the groups doesn't seem massive, so I'm surprised they think they have a strong case.

    1. couru

      10% is pretty significant when dealing with demographics.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        OTOH the difference between those in their 50s & those in their 40s might not be that great. A positive correlation coefficient between probability of lay-off and age might be more convincing although I can see the problems in defining a class of claimant.

    2. aerogems Silver badge

      So say there's a bowl of skittles on a table with a perfectly even distribution of colors. You note that the red skittles tend to be eaten 10% more often than any other color skittle. You're going to sit there and say that's just a coincidence?

      As the article includes, someone did a statistical analysis and put the probability of the action happening by chance at basically nil. You'd have a better chance winning the lottery than that many women or older workers being laid off. Winning the lottery is usually something like one in a couple hundred million chance, while the article points out that the chance of these firings not being deliberately targeted at women and older workers is in the one to a couple trillion. That's blowing past the billions and going straight into the next order of magnitude compared to the lottery.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        To be honest, I'm not convinced about their statistical analysis there. I wouldn't be surprised at all that there was discrimination there, since a lot of the process appeared to consist of random people who didn't understand anything about the company getting a large sheet and marking people off manually without having met them or studied much data about them (we're talking about the idiots who asked people to prove their worth to the company by printing out the code they wrote). If you were designing a process to create an environment likely to pull out someone's biases and inflict them on people, you could hardly come up with a better one.

        The problem is with the sample sizes. For example, I was on a team which was 66.7% women and 33.3% men once, which is a wide disparity. Of course, as you've already guessed, that was because the team was three people, and that is the lowest the disparity could possibly be in that situation. Twitter had more people, but it wasn't millions, where such a percentage would be nearly impossible to get without some other deciding factor (it could be intentional or some other correlation). With a smaller set, it is more likely to happen by chance. For example, the disparity in workers over 50 comes down to 16 employees. The chance that 16 members of a set of 248, or even from the theoretical set of 115 after the first 54% of the set had been fired, being chosen when the process was so inefficient doesn't necessarily indicate bias, nor is it a one in a trillion case, since any set of that size would be the same percentage and sets of many other sizes would have been treated identically (I.E. considered a wide disparity but not ridiculously wide).

        1. aerogems Silver badge

          No offense to you, but I'm more inclined to take the word of a University Professor over a rando on the Interwebs. Maybe you're a professional statistician, I don't know, and that's why my default is to trust someone whose credentials are known.

          That said, we're talking about things within the context of Twitter, so the sample size is obviously going to be limited to however many people were employed there before Twitler took over and started the mass cullings. The basic methodology used for the analysis was laid out quite well in TFA. You start with approximately 5,000 employees from before the Twitler takeover. Out of that number, 248 were over 50 years old, and of those 248 employees over age 50 (like Twitler himself) 149 of them were given the boot. Not sure where you came up with 16 when TFA is quite clear on that point. The TFA goes on to say that Twitter had approximately 2200 female employees and 2900 male employees. However, the number of men fired vs women was less than 80. You have a difference of roughly 700 more men compared to women, but when it comes time to decide who to fire, only 80 additional men were fired over women.

          None of these facts prove anything in and of themselves, but they do point towards there likely being some kind of animus or bias at play targeting older workers and women. Put together with things Twitler has said and other evidence they may have, which all likely points in the same direction, eventually you have to conclude that they dun did the deed. If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, waddles like a duck, has feathers like a duck, lays eggs like a duck... at some point a tipping point is reached and it's more likely than not that whatever you're looking at, is in fact, a duck. And since this is a civil trial, that's the burden of proof the people suing Twitler need to meet. That it's more likely than not that they were targeted because of their age and/or gender.

          1. Yankee Doodle Doofus

            No offense to you, but the statistical probabilities this professor came up with are clearly only accurate if the age/gender of the employees is the ONLY variable. Meaning that unless every person fired had the same salary, the same credentials, the same amount of experience, the same work ethic, etc. we really have no clue as to what the actual decisions were based on. This professor almost certainly knows this, as do the lawyers. What they are counting on is people like you who don't understand this being in the jury.

          2. doublelayer Silver badge

            I didn't say you had to trust me or them. I didn't say all their statistics were wrong or falsified, although when you see statistics from lawyers, you know they are the set that support their case. That may be the only correct way to view the data, but it also might be very wrong. I do not want to convince you of a particular point. I will, however, explain some things you questioned.

            First, you don't understand why I said that 16 employees created the divide they're talking about. Here's how I got that. There were, as the article states, 248 people over 50. 60% of them were fired. Of the set below 50, 54% of them were fired. Had they fired 54% of those over 50, that would have come to 133.9 people, which we can round to 134 although I rounded it to 133. They actually fired 149 people, which makes 16 more than my original rounding of 133. Therefore, the difference that they are pointing to, which is 6 percentage points, is 15-16 people. This may but does not necessarily indicate a small sample problem. For a simplified example, if they fired the three-person team mentioned in my original comment, you could say that they fired 100% more women than men, but the difference is one person, which makes it more likely that it wasn't for that purpose. This is a simplistic understanding, as there are plenty of reasons other than simple chance that could have been used. Some would indicate discrimination and some would indicate normal running of a business. If the sample size was large enough, assuming that some other factor was necessary would make sense. Since it is smaller, that is not as evident and other factors must be investigated.

            The difference becomes larger in other sets. For example, the female-to-male divide consists of 221 people, which is a much larger sample. That still doesn't necessarily indicate discrimination, but that is much less likely to happen by random chance. By far the best number they have is when they limited the numbers to engineering roles. The reason for that is that, if there were a lot of women and few men on the moderation team, then when Musk decided to demolish the moderation team to get started on destroying the business early, the women would end up in a worse situation for a reason that will not count as discrimination in court. They will probably have to make a lot of similar subsets to demonstrate discrimination when controlled for what kind of job was being done by the person who got fired.

            Bringing in random chance is already a problem, since even with the extremely poor quality that was used during the process, people don't get fired by random chance. Calculating how likely this would be if the decisions were made using dice is not the right way to determine discrimination or not anymore than you would expect your raise to be determined by flipping a coin. You still might be treated unfairly, but it would be due to decisions of your employer that they didn't want to give you more money, not valuing you accurately, or discriminating against you, none of which is random. When you start comparing something to random chance, you open yourself to lots of arguments about what counts as a positive result which will dramatically change the random value. When that comparison is of no value, it is often not useful to bring it up because you'll end up in a stats fight.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        "As the article includes, someone did a statistical analysis and put the probability of the action happening by chance at basically nil. "

        I doubt that assessment. If the sample size were much larger, I might be more willing to believe. The difficulty is going to be coming up with proof of intent. The Pink Slips were shot out pretty darn fast and there wasn't much time to analyze things such as age, race, gender, etc. It seems like there was more FIFO, salary caps and whole departments given the axe with perhaps one or two people left in place to wind up the department's affairs, but we did hear that after the firings, some units had the rest of their staff leave voluntarily so they wouldn't be required to do all the work themselves. I have to wonder if THAT was part of the plan. Take a 20 person department, fire half of them and see if the rest run away. Often, when somebody leaves on their own, they aren't subject to severance pay or other benefits they would receive if they were made redundant.

  6. Brennan Young

    FGS. people get their knickers in the twist about this "identifying as-" phrase, as if it signals the terminal decline of civilisation.

    All it actually means is they checked the "female" checkbox in an online form.

    1. FirstTangoInParis Bronze badge

      Our HR is done by one of those big noise software companies. On perusing my record one day it had not been told my gender. I ticked the relevant box, and was then faced with a demand for birth certificate or gender reassignment certificate. I nearly sent them a picture of downstairs.

  7. CynicalOptimist

    not here to defend Musk, he's obviously a wrong'un and given he was sacking people left right and centre if they dared to question is wisdom in public, its hard to imagine the process was in any way fair. However, the statistical analysis is weak. Stats 101 for this type of analysis is to "control your variables" - meaning using statistical treatments to remove the effect of other factors. Hypothetically, those factors could be such things as women being over represented in the types of roles being made redundant or more senior roles being lost compared to junior roles, and older people being over represented in the senior roles. I don't know if either of those hypotheses are true, but neither does the 'statistician' coming up with their probability figures.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Indeed, there is more to your job than simply your age and sex. If the male/female ratio had been hugely skewed towards the men I doubt anyone would have cared.

  8. Gerlad Dreisewerd

    Oh my! The committee of Karens is offended.

    Oh my! The committee of Karens is offended.

    1. MrDamage Silver badge

      Re: Oh my! The committee of Karens is offended.

      Thank you for giving us Twitters new name. I refuse to call it "ecks".

  9. IGotOut Silver badge

    Screwed stats...

    Those figures are skewed.

    If you sack 1 out of 10 people of category A, you've sacked 10%

    You sack 5 out of a hundred of category B, you've 5%

    That doesn't mean Cat B had less sackings, although if you just went by percentages, it seems that way.

  10. Plest Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    X ( formally Twiiter )

    It's the dumpster fire gift that just keeps giving! I'm glad Elon bought Twitter and did exactly as expected, we have a non-stop IT soap opera with a new escapade from the mental billionaire, spikey haired loon every single day!

    1. aerogems Silver badge

      Re: X ( formally Twiiter )

      And don't forget that now Twitler is trying to chicken out of his fight with Zuckerberg claiming he has back and neck issues. He no doubt expected Zuckerberg to refuse to fight him, but when he called Twitler's bluff instead, he's been looking for an excuse to back out ever since.

  11. aerogems Silver badge

    I once worked for a company just a couple minutes drive down the road from Tesla where Twitler must've done a case study or something. This place had approximately 300 employees, and while working there I counted fewer than 10 non-Asian employees. Only one non-Asian person had any kind of managerial role, and that was at the lowest rung of management. Even if you double the number of non-Asian people to account for people I maybe didn't see, it's still laughable to think that they were doing anything other than using race as a hiring factor.

    Sadly this sort of thing is all too common in Corporate America, and I personally hope Twitler gets crucified for it. Maybe it'll start to put other companies on notice. There are plenty of companies more deserving on this particular topic, but Twitler is probably an ideal initial target given his high profile in the media, and he's a right arsehole in general who deserves to be taken down several pegs.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      'Even if you double the number of non-Asian people to account for people I maybe didn't see, it's still laughable to think that they were doing anything other than using race as a hiring factor."

      You'd still need to show intent. It could be that some Asian language was mainly spoken at the company and people that didn't know it felt insecure and left. I've seen that sort of thing happen before. It could also be that the company is a subsidiary of an Asian parent company and the management was brought in and they hired a few people familiar with the type of industry and those people got their friends/family hired and it just spirals from there. The corporate culture and operating principles can be very different between companies that began in the US and Japan. Given how fast the US has been shedding certain industries, some companies may only be getting applicants with the required background that have come from someplace else.

      Again and always, the plaintiffs have to show intent. If they can come up with a communication chain from Elon to his subordinates directing them to get rid of people based on certain "protected" classifications, they might have a chance of winning. If the sackings where just based on salary costs, time at the company and the department they are in, Elon will win.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I used to work at a company with a California office just like that! During the second acquisition HR at the head office put that office on notice to hire fewer Indian males; a few months later we had hired more Indian females, with no change to the overall national origin makeup. I did run a few H1B applications for, yes, Indian females I hired into and managed at that office, though I am neither Indian nor living in California.

      Initial impressions aside, the California office composition was barely representative of the division, and not at all of either acquiring company. There were several reasons that office was that way, especially networking relationships and the particular work we were doing at the time, though frankly we also had a (not entirely unfair) reputation of not having the best overall compensation by Valley standards. I filled out the H1B honestly, I did not get other qualified applicants for these positions (and this was a big company, you'd know the name of the acquirers at least).

  12. Ace2 Silver badge

    My first takeaway from this story: Wow, old Twitter did a better job hiring women than any of the tech companies I’ve ever worked at.

    If you don’t have 50% +/- female staff, there’s still something wrong with the system. (Excepting pro athletes, manual labor, etc etc.)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      So you'd hire an under qualified woman over a man that meets your requirements just to meet your quota?

      1. Ace2 Silver badge

        FFS, what part of my post gave you that impression, caveboy?

        Or are you one of those people that thinks maleness gives you more technical aptitude?

    2. Yankee Doodle Doofus

      "If you don’t have 50% +/- female staff, there’s still something wrong with the system"

      I might agree with you, depending on what you mean by "the system". If you mean the educational/cultural system that results in 5 males studying computer science or engineering for every 1 female, then yes, I tend to agree. If you mean the hiring system in place at the organization, then you ignore the much smaller pool of female candidates for tech positions, and you look foolish.

    3. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "If you don’t have 50% +/- female staff, there’s still something wrong with the system. "

      That's silly. We see more women as nurses as that's been a job traditionally approved for and held by women. Men have been expected to be doctors. Sally Ride started a science foundation to encourage younger girls to get interested and stay interested in science to combat age old biases that were telling younger girls they were no good at math or science. Sally's teaching materials go a long way to show how boys had been encouraged to become engineers, scientists and astronauts which is why those disciplines are still predominately male. They will keep having a male majority until more girls are taking up those subjects and make their way into the workforce. That's years and years, not an overnight mandate that a government can put in place and expect to make a real difference. Companies need to hire people based on their merits, not their reproductive bits.

  13. martinusher Silver badge

    At will, aka "Right to Work"?

    I'm a bit puzzled by this constant bickering about who's been unfairly dismissed. It seems that people just don't get it. California, like most other states in the US, is a "Right to Work" state which loosely translates to "you have the right to leave at any time" but more accurately is "you have the right to be fired at any time without any notice or severance". Despite this there are still significant groups of people in this state that think that somehow this doesn't apply to them. They also don't seem to understand that the HR and legal departments tend to be among the last to feel the layoffs -- employers might be careless but they're not stupid.

    I've lived and worked in California for decades and am used to this. I'm a 'technology' worker, I don't work for a company like Twitter or any of those names so when the layoffs hit (or just individuals fired with minimal warning and no notice) there's no publicity and no hopes of a big payday from a lawsuit or two.

    (I'm still a bit puzzled about what all these thousands of technology workers actually did. I suspect Musk asked the same question....)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: At will, aka "Right to Work"?

      I didn't think CA was a right to work state. It is an 'employment at will' state which is the correct term for the hire and fire with no notice, although they still can't do it for discriminatory reasons.

      I was under the impression that right to work was to do with having to join a union for certain jobs.

      1. aerogems Silver badge

        Re: At will, aka "Right to Work"?

        It's effectively the same thing. There may be some subtle legal difference, but for all intents and purposes, and especially for our discussion here, they're the same thing.

        Unless you have a contract that stipulates otherwise, such as through a union, you can be fired at any time for any, or no, reason... EXCEPT one of the few illegal reasons like race, sex-gender, age (if over 40), national origin, etc. Your boss can walk in one day and fire you just because they're in a bad mood and you're the first person they saw. In fact, Twitler is rumored to rage fire people who happen to walk within sight of his office door at Tesla when he's in a bad mood. Dick move, to be sure, and a really piss poor way to run a business, but completely legal. At least assuming it's not that he only fires black people who walk by his office, or hispanic people, or women.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: At will, aka "Right to Work"?

          They're really not the same thing. You can be in no union at all and have more barriers to leaving a job or getting fired from one, or you can be in a union but can leave or be fired very easily. Or, of course, you could have both or neither, but the difference is most noticeable when you consider one of the two at a time. It is always possible that being in a union will increase the barriers to getting fired, but that is not guaranteed. There are also many jobs that simply will not have a union involved, so the policies on whether you have to join that union* aren't very relevant to that one, but the policies about when and why you can be fired still affect you. The things are not synonymous.

          * Technically, it's not that you are required to join the union, but that you could be required to pay the price of union membership. Participation is optional.

    2. aerogems Silver badge

      Re: At will, aka "Right to Work"?

      While your description is largely true, there are some carve outs in US law. You can't just go up to a black worker and tell them they're fired because you're a member of the KKK and think they're an inferior subspecies. You can't fire a woman who is out on maternity leave. You can't fire someone because they're over 40 years old. Those are just a few examples, you can visit the EEOC and whatever the DFEH was renamed to for more info on specific carve outs. Compared to Europe they're paper thin and rarely enforced, but they exist.

      It's also important to remember that just because you don't know what Joe Blow does all day it doesn't mean they're just sitting around twiddling their thumbs all day. I have no idea what the finance department in most companies do all day, but I assume they're doing something besides just sitting around waiting for me to have a question or need them to do something. I figure they probably had little idea what I did all day, and may come by my desk in one of the rare moments of calm where I have nothing to do, and might think that's how I spend most of my day. As opposed to relishing the few minutes of peace before the next dumpster fire comes along that I need to deal with, or the next 50 requests come in, all of them urgent.

    3. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: At will, aka "Right to Work"?

      "but more accurately is "you have the right to be fired at any time without any notice or severance"."

      At will and "Right to Work" ARE different. On one hand, if you work in an At Will locale, you can be sacked at any time for cause. This doesn't mean that a company can make redundant a large percentage of their staff with no severance or notice except if they are totally insolvent. Twitter was an ongoing concern even if it wasn't profitable very often. It's very obvious that Elon wanted to make changes and reduce expenditures after taking on a considerable amount of debt to buy the brand which won't be acceptable when it comes to regulation about mass layoffs.

      Besides employment laws, some employees had/have severance in their contracts and those contracts aren't void when the company changed hands. Those contracts are a piece of what Elon purchased. If he couldn't be bothered to look into the employment arrangements the former management with employees, that's his own lookout. It shouldn't have been all that hard to go through HR records to see who was entitled to what if they were sacked.

      Right to Work is usually interpreted to mean you are not required to join a union to work for a company. Maybe it's better to be represented by a union, maybe it's not. In places where there is no Right to Work, you might be required to join if you want to take a job at a particular company in a position that falls under a union contract. I see being in a union as working for the union and not the company. At Will also means that you can leave your job without reprisals at any time. You don't have to give notice, but it IS customary and if you want a good reference, giving notice is important.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Working in the US

    You’ve got to be joking man.

  15. FirstTangoInParis Bronze badge

    Elon spams his users

    So I have one of those TwiX accounts, so I can communicate with my local councillors. And also look at cat pictures (@number10cat is the best). But last couple of days, right at the top of my feed on opening the app is Elon himself asking if I like the latest version of his company’s logo, like he’s got some massively insecurity and assumes I care. I don’t.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Elon spams his users

      "So I have one of those TwiX accounts, so I can communicate with my local councillors."

      This is one of the things I don't like. There should be an 'official' way to contact government officials or find government information without having to sell out to a social media company. The town I'm in got popped for relying on InstaPintaTwitFace and not publishing required information on the city web site. If I want to know if my train is running late, I don't think of using Social Media, but the official web site.

  16. cornetman Silver badge

    > Killingsworth's analysis suggests, "the odds that this disparity between women and men being laid off is due only to chance is 0.00000000000001

    Such analysis using these tiny figures always seem a bit suspicious to me.

    Even if we assume that the maths are "correct", employees are rarely, if ever, made redundant only based on pure chance.

    Such an employer would have to be absolutely moronic, so the comparison seems fairly moot.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      The article also says...

      "which suggests the odds of this disparity being due to chance is just 0.0529 and is thus likely to have been deliberate."

      ...which to me reads as not even significant at the 5% level and therefore not likely to be deliberate.

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "Even if we assume that the maths are "correct", employees are rarely, if ever, made redundant only based on pure chance."

      This is Elon we're talking about and he was looking to do a fast wholesale clearing out of people to lower his monthly nut.

  17. t245t

    Five identify as female?

    I identify as a yellow-scaled wingless dragonkin /s

  18. tiggity Silver badge

    "Of the seven plaintiffs: ... five identify as female;"

    Would have been more useful to know if they were actually biological females, as "identify as" is could include males & I seem to recall the pre Musk twitter had a lot of trans identified males on the workforce

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      ""Of the seven plaintiffs: ... five identify as female;""

      In this day and age, we may need to state something like, "of the seven plaintiffs, 3 were born with a penis and 5 identify as female, one as a toadstool and one claiming to be a direct descendent of "The Wizard"." Ok, hang on and I'll make a spreadsheet with all of the categories claimed and how they apply.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Exactly. It can't be discrimination on the basis of sex if they are actually males claiming to be female.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If they only identify as female, rather than actually be female, then it's not discrimination on the basis of sex, that's gender. Did the author add in "identify as females" or did Twitter?

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