Elon Musk has mocked a disabled ex-Twitter employee after the worker told the social media site he wasn’t sure if he still had a job.
The spat began when Haraldur Thorleifsson, who has muscular dystrophy and is in a wheelchair, sent a Tweeter to Musk on Monday asking for clarification on his professional status.
Thorleifsson, who lives in Iceland, noted that he lost access to his work computer several days ago, but Twitter’s human resources department had not confirmed his employment status. It sparked a series of tweets between Musk and Thorleifsson, with the billionaire asking Thorleifsson about his role in the company.
After this exchange, Thorleifsson said a Twitter human resources employee emailed him and confirmed that he had been terminated, “which is totally fine and it happens all the time.”
“Companies let people go,” Thorleifsson wrote. “It’s within their rights. They usually tell people about it, but it’s apparently the optional part of Twitter now.”
Musk responded to a screenshot of the exchange between him and Thorleifsson by criticizing the former employee, alleging the man “didn’t do any real work” and used his disability “as an excuse.”
“The reality is that this guy (who is independently wealthy) didn’t actually work, pretended as an excuse that he had a disability that prevented him from typing, but was simultaneously tweeting a storm. I can’t say that I I have a lot of respect for that,” Musk wrote.
Thorleifsson, the founder of a creative design agency he sold to Twitter in 2021, said the BBC, he joined Twitter as a full-time employee as part of the acquisition and his title was Senior Director of Product Design.
Musk added that Thorleifsson technically wasn’t fired because “you can’t be fired if you don’t work in the first place.”
After news outlets wrote about Musk’s comments, he said The video called on Thorleifsson “to figure out what’s real versus what I’ve been told.”
“Better to talk to people than to communicate via tweet,” Musk said.
musk later apologized to Thorleifsson “for my misunderstanding of his situation”.
“It was based on things I had been told that were wrong or in some cases true, but not meaningful,” Musk said.
Twitter owner’s brash management style, which included firing thousands of employees on the social media platform, has drawn fire from former employees, lawmakers and management experts. The company is also being sued by unpaid sellers and for unpaid rent in the office space it occupies in California.
Twitter’s workforce has grown from around 7,500 employees shortly before Musk’s purchase to around 2,000 as Musk seeks to cut costs.
Alex Sundby contributed reporting.