Musk lambasts ex-employee in Twitter exit interview for playing ‘disability’ card

| Updated: 07 March, 2023 4:08 pm IST

Twitter CEO Elon Musk on Tuesday conducted an impromptu online exit interview with an ex-employee and castigated him for playing the “disability” card for not doing his work. The employee in question is Icelandic entrepreneur Haraldur Thorleifsson, who launched the “Ramp Up Reykjavík” project in 2021.

Thorleifsson, 45, joined Twitter in 2021 after selling his design agency Ueno to the social media company. His hiring was in lieu of the acquisition of his company. This kind of hiring is known as acqui-hire – a kind of hiring done for talent rather than performance metrics.

Musk however was not happy with the arrangement. Thorleifsson was one of the 200 people who were fired in February but he apparently received no official word.

“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. Can’t say I have a lot of respect for that,” Musk wrote in a tweet.

Thorleifsson tweeted a picture of him in a wheelchair when many questioned if he was really disabled. He was born with a congenital muscle disease and has been using a wheelchair for 20 years.

So what exactly happened?

Thorleifsson was refused access by Twitter to his computer nine days back and since then had received no communication from the company HR. He took to Twitter to understand the status of his employment.

“Dear Elon Musk, 9 days ago the access to my work computer was cut, along with about 200 other Twitter employees. However your head of HR is not able to confirm if I am an employee or not. You’ve not answered my emails. Maybe if enough people retweet you’ll answer me here?” he tweeted. Musk has been on a sizing down spree with thousands of employees laid off since his takeover in October.

He even tagged Twitter founder Jack Dorsey. “I would really appreciate your help on this one. My company was acquired on your watch and I joined because I believed in what you were building,” he wrote. Thorleifsson sold his company to Twitter in 2021. Musk acquired Twitter in a $44 billion deal last year.

Musk responded in the comments and asked the businessman about the work he has been doing at Twitter.

Thorleifsson wrote: “I would need to break confidentiality to answer this question here. If you have your lawyers share in writing that I can do that then I’d be happy to discuss that openly!”
Musk gave an approval and asked Thorleifsson to go ahead.

He listed his role and responsibility in a tweet, “Among others: led the effort to save about $500k on one SaaS contract. Supported closing down many others, led prioritization of design projects across the company to make sure we were able to deliver with a small team, led design crits to help level up design across the company, was hiring manager for all design roles, worked on efforts to steer the company away from focusing on power users and on to younger users (because our user base is aging),” he wrote.

Musk countered with, “Level up from what design to what? Pics or it didn’t happen. We haven’t hired design roles in 4 months. What changes did you make to help with the youths?” He punctuated the conversation with a clip from 1999 US black comedy “Office Space”. The clip was titled, “What would you say…you do here?”

To this Thorleifsson responded, “To be clear. You have every right to lay me off. That’s totally fair and fine. But usually people are told when that happens. Maybe with a letter or something. Which didn’t happen for 9 days despite multiple emails to you and others,” Thorleifsson responded and asked if he would be paid what he was owed.

“But ok, fair enough, I’ve been laid off and I’m ok with that. Next up though is finding out if Twitter will pay me what they owe me per my contract. Or, will Elon Musk, one of the richest people in the world, try to avoid paying? Stay tuned!!” he wrote.

“But as I shared I finally got confirmation that I am not an employee anymore. Again, that’s totally within your rights. No complaints. But can you make sure I get paid what I’m owed?”

Twitter has reportedly laid off about 10 percent of its remaining workforce, or at least 200 employees, in the last week of February. The move comes as part of Elon Musk’s ongoing effort to reduce costs since acquiring the social media platform in October. Twitter’s workforce has already been cut down from about 7,500 employees to roughly 2,000, as per media reports.


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