Elon Musk publicly mocks disabled Twitter employee who didn’t know if he was fired
New York (CNN) Elon Musk publicly mocked the uncertainty of a Twitter employee who didn’t know if he’d been fired in a recent round of cuts and spoke dismissively of lto employee disability in a series of tweets Monday night. It is the latest example of the billionaire openly confronting his company’s current and former employees.
Haraldur Thorleifsson, a senior director at Twitter based in Iceland, tweeted to Musk that access to his computer had been cut off nine days earlier, when Twitter reportedly laid off about 200 employees. But, Thorleifsson said in his tweet, “your HR manager can’t confirm if I’m an employee or not.”
Musk responded in a tweet asking, “What work have you been doing?” And when Thorleifsson provided a list of his tasks in response, Musk appeared to question several points. “Pictures or it didn’t happen,” he tweeted. In a separate tweet, the billionaire said Thorleifsson “didn’t do any real work, claiming as an excuse that he had a disability that prevented him from typing.”
Thorleifsson clarified in a tweet that he suffers from muscular dystrophy, a degenerative disease that he says put him in a wheelchair more than 20 years ago. Thorleifsson, who founded a digital branding company acquired by Twitter in 2021, has been recognized by the United Nations and the President of Iceland for spearheading a charitable effort to build 1,000 wheelchair ramps around Reykjavik to increase the city’s accessibility.
“I can’t do manual labor (which in this case means typing or using a mouse) for long periods of time without my hands starting to cramp,” he said. “However, I can write for an hour or two at a time. This was not a problem in Twitter 1.0 as I was a senior manager and my job was mostly to help teams move forward, give them strategic and tactical advice.”
Thorleifsson did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment. Twitter, which has cut much of his public relations department, also did not respond.
It is not the first time that Musk, one of the world’s richest men, has publicly mocked employees of Twitter, the company he bought for $44 billion last year. He feuded on the platform with former Twitter executives, fired employees who criticized him and, in one case, publicly denounced a former employee’s tweets about him as the result of “a tragic case of adult-onset Tourette’s.” .
The jarring spectacle of a business owner publicly mocking an employee highlights the unique corporate circus that Twitter workers have experienced over the past year. Musk threatened to walk away from the deal, then completed the acquisition only to proceed with multiple rounds of layoffs. Hundreds of former Twitter employees are now taking legal action against the company, alleging broken severance promises and, in some cases, discrimination, including against disabled employees.
Meanwhile, the platform seems to be struggling to stay online. On Monday, Twitter experienced one of its biggest outages since the Musk acquisition, with many users unable to access the site and others having trouble clicking links or viewing photos for about an hour. It was the third major technical problem Twitter has faced in less than a month, as Musk cut its staff from about 7,500 before its acquisition to fewer than 2,000 and engaged in a number of other cost-cutting efforts.
After the exchange with Musk, Thorleifsson said in a tweet that Twitter’s head of human resources had confirmed that he no longer worked at the company.
“Which is totally fine and happens all the time… They usually tell people about this, but apparently that’s the optional part on Twitter now,” he said. “However, the next step is to find out if Twitter will pay me what they owe me under my contract.”