Elon Musk Discloses Former Employee’s Disability in Twitter Exchange; later apologizes

In a rare development, Musk later apologized and said he misunderstood the employee’s situation after mocking him on Twitter

| Updated on: Mar 09 2023, 07:21 IST
Elon Musk Twitter Bankruptcy Talk: Timeline
Elon Musk
1/13 He’s told employees to brace themselves for long hours, that “the road ahead is arduous and will require intense work to succeed,” and said bankruptcy was possible. Here’s how the saga is unfolding: (Bloomberg)
Elon Musk
2/13 Oct. 27: Musk takes control- His first act is to fire the Board along with CEO Parag Agrawal, CFO Ned Segal, head of legal Vijaya Gadde and Counsel Sean Edgett. Musk forms advisory team that includes celebrity attorney Alex Spiro, VC David Sacks, Neuralink CEO and head of Musk’s family office Jared Birchall, investor Jason Calacanis, and partner of Andreessen Horowitz Sriram Krishnan. (Reuters)
Elon Musk
3/13 Oct. 28: Brands begin to take pause- As Musk plans to unban accounts and says he will charge for user verification, advertisers suspend ads. (AFP)
Elon Musk
4/13 Oct. 31: Top tweeters protest- Amid murmurings of plans to charge existing verified accounts, author Steven King tweets, “$20 a month to keep my blue check? F**k that, they should pay me. If that gets instituted, I’m gone like Enron.” (AFP)
Elon Musk
5/13 Nov. 1: Teams working around the clock- The product team works over the weekend on Musk’s idea to charge users for blue check marks. A photo of product director Esther Crawford sleeping on the floor of a conference room, trying to make the deadline, goes viral. Meanwhile, managers are asked to make lists of who can be fired. Employees print out their software code for review by Musk and engineers from Tesla, to determine if their contributions are worthy of keeping a job. (REUTERS)
Elon Musk
6/13 Nov. 3: Massive layoffs begin- A memo is sent to all employees telling them of imminent layoffs and to watch for an email with the subject line: “Your Role at Twitter.” Badge access to offices is suspended as 3,700 staffers receive word that they’ve been cut. Realizing employees essential for the continuity of the business have been let go by mistake, some are asked to come back. (AP)
Elon Musk
7/13 Co-founder EV Williams tweets, “Heart’s out to the tweeps getting laid off today.” Co-founder Jack Dorsey adds, “I realize many are angry with me. I own the responsibility for why everyone is in this situation: I grew the company size too quickly. I apologize for that.” (REUTERS)
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8/13 Nov. 5-6: Musk responds to celebrity protests- Unrest grows on the platform over the weekend, particularly over the issue of impersonator accounts. Actress Valerie Bertinelli starts a movement of people changing their Twitter names to “Elon Musk.” Comedian Kathy Griffin joins the protest, finds her account locked. Then Musk announces, “Going forward, any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying `parody’ will be permanently suspended.” (AP)
Elon Musk
9/13 Nov. 8: Musk sells more Tesla- Despite a previous vow not to sell any more Tesla stock, Musk sells an additional $3.95 billion, bringing the total sold in past year to $36 billion. (REUTERS)
Elon Musk
10/13 Nov. 9: Musk Blue tick mark- Blue check mark option becomes available for purchase, and immediately becomes a tool for impersonators. An account masquerading as Nintendo Inc. posts an image of Super Mario holding up a middle finger. (REUTERS)
Elon Musk
11/13 Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, and a close cadre of advisers are considering a host of changes to the way Twitter is run and makes money. (REUTERS)
Elon Musk
12/13 Nov. 10: More key executives quit as Musk warns of bankruptcy- In his first meeting with employees, Musk tells them to brace for 80-hour weeks and requires everyone back in the office full time. He also says bankruptcy for the company is not out of the question if it doesn’t start generating more cash. Several executives in charge of keeping Twitter safe and accountable to its users quit, including chief information security officer Lea Kissner, chief privacy officer Damien Kieran and chief compliance Marianne Fogarty.. (AFP)
Elon Musk
13/13 Nov. 11: Verified accounts get “Official” tags- Twitter adds badges that say “offiical” to verified accounts in some places, though confusion abounds. More brands depart the platform. (REUTERS)
Elon Musk
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A Twitter employee trying to gain clarity as to whether he was fired was mocked by Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk, who chatted openly about the worker’s disability status to other people on Twitter before apologizing a day later. (REUTERS)

A Twitter Inc. employee trying to gain clarity as to whether he was fired was mocked by Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk, who chatted openly about the worker's disability status to other people on Twitter — before apologizing a day later.

Halli Thorleifsson, a senior director whose design firm Ueno was bought by Twitter in 2021, tweeted at Musk on Monday that his access to a work computer had been revoked, and that he wasn't able to receive an answer from human resources as to whether he still worked at the company. In public replies, Musk asked what kind of work Thorleifsson was doing and what its value was, then sent memes and emoji mocking Thorleifsson's responses. Thorleifsson later said HR reached out to him and confirmed he was no longer a Twitter employee.

Musk then publicly discussed Thorleifsson's disability with a third party in a separate tweet. The Americans with Disabilities Act mandates that US employers keep their employees' disability status confidential. The ADA also offers certain protections to workers with disabilities, and prohibits discrimination, such as decisions in hiring or firing, that are based on disability.

“The reality is that this guy (who is independently wealthy) did no actual work, claimed as his excuse that he had a disability that prevented him from typing, yet was simultaneously tweeting up a storm,” Musk wrote. “Can't say I have a lot of respect for that.” He also suggested that Thorleifsson only tweeted at him for “a big payout.”

Thorleifsson later detailed the limitations of his muscular dystrophy with followers, adding that he was able to write threads on Twitter through his phone, given that it allows him to type with one finger. His disability, he added, wasn't a major issue in the pre-Elon era of Twitter.

“I was a senior director and my job was mostly to help teams move forward, give them strategic and tactical guidance,” he said. “But as I told HR (I'm assuming that's the confidential health information you are sharing) I can't work as a hands-on designer for the reasons outlined above.

Thorleifsson didn't immediately respond to requests for comment. Twitter, which disbanded its communications team following Musk's purchase, couldn't be reached for comment.

On Tuesday, Musk said he had chatted with Thorleifsson over a video call and “would like to apologize for my misunderstanding of his situation.” He added, a day after saying he had fired the designer, that Thorleifsson was “considering remaining at Twitter.”

Musk's turnaround is a rare move for the executive, who has been known for doubling down on attacks against critics and former employees, particularly on Twitter. In 2018, he called a British caver who helped rescue a trapped Thai soccer team a “pedo guy.” That man unsuccessfully sued Musk for defamation.

In December, Musk publicly attacked Yoel Roth, Twitter's former safety head. Musk publicly posted excerpts of Roth's doctoral dissertation, which suggested LGBTQ dating apps should create a safe space for the minors who were using the apps despite their terms of service. Musk then accused the former Twitter executive of being an advocate for child sexualization — a baseless accusation that exposed Roth to online abuse and caused him to leave, and then sell, his home.

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First Published Date: 09 Mar, 07:21 IST
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