The fallout from Elon Musk's great shakeup-and-layoff spree at Twitter in late 2022 continues this week with a new lawsuit filed in Delaware's Court of Chancery by six former high-level employees who claim they are still owed severance, and that they were ordered by Musk's team to break laws.
We may have thought the story was over when it came to San Francisco's building inspectors looking in on Elon Musk's Twitter and allegations of illegally converting conference rooms into living areas. But a new lawsuit filed by six former Twitter employees, who are also seeking severance payments they say they were promised, alleges that Twitter's new leadership ordered employees to violate building codes and state law, and to breach contracts — like the lease the company has for their mid-Market headquarters.
The six plaintiffs in the case are Joseph Killian, the company's former lead project manager of global design and construction; Wolfram Arnold, a former staff software engineer; Erik Froese, former software engineering senior manager; former Vice President of Real Estate & Workplace and Remote Experience Tracy Hawkins; Laura Chan Pytlarz, former global strategy lead for food and events; and Andrew Schlaikjer, a former senior machine learning engineer.
The suit explains that the six collectively had 60 years of experience working for the company, had senior-level titles, and as such were "in the room where it happened" as the transition was occurring with Musk and his new team of advisors.
As the Chronicle reports, the lawsuit against new holding company X Corp. was filed Tuesday, and it has already prompted SF's Department of Building Inspection (DBI) to open a new investigation into the Twitter Building.
The suit contends that "Twitter’s new leadership deliberately, specifically, and repeatedly announced their intentions to breach contracts, violate laws, and otherwise ignore their legal obligations."
Killian claims in the suit that he was instructed to downplay changes made to the space when DBI went in to inspect the ersatz dorm rooms they set up — Killian relates in the suit that inspectors were relieved when they came, reportedly saying, "This is just furniture! We expected more drastic changes."
But according to Killian, Musk and his team instructed him to disable motion sensors that turned on lights, because they were disrupting those trying to sleeep — even though the landlord had rejected that change, and it was in violation of a state energy-saving code. A and we learn via the suit that Killian says he was berated into hiring an electrician to solve the light issue by Boring Company CEO Steve Davis's girlfriend, Nicole Hollander, who was sleeping on premises even though she was not an employee and reportedly providing "instruction" to Killian, along with Davis.
Killian further alleges that he was instructed to get a new bathroom installed next to Musk's office, so that he didn't have to cross the floor to use a bathroom in the middle of the night. Killian said they would need to get permits for that, otherwise no licensed plumber would do the plumbing work, and he alleges he was told by Davis, paraphrasing, "we don't do that, we don't have to follow those rules."
Also, Killian says he was told to install locks on sleeping spaces that would have violated fire code — locks that would not automatically open in case of emergencies. Killian alleges he was told to find cheaper locks, even though they would potentially block "first responders from being able to access the rooms" in question.
"Nobody cared," the suit reads. "Killian quit that day," and allegedly the cheaper locks were later installed under someone else's watch.
You may recall that Musk responded to the DBI inspection at the time by tweeting at Mayor London Breed, asking "where are your priorities?" and posting a link to the story about the baby exposed to fentanyl in a Marina District park.
There are more damning allegations in the suit, including from Hawkins, who said she quit after she was told outright to stop paying vendors and stop paying the building's landlord. The quote in the suit from Musk adviser Pablo Mendoza is "Elon told me he would only pay rent over his dead body," according to Killian.
As far as we know, the landlord, Shorenstein, continues to seek unpaid rent from Twitter in court, and King Charles III himself, and the Crown Estate, sued Twitter over unpaid rent for the company's London offices too. The Market Street building's landlord, a Shorenstein affiliate known as SRI Nine Market Sqaure, filed suit in late January saying at the time that $3.1 million was owed for January.
Twitter has no comms department, and replied to inquiries from the Chronicle and Insider with the standard, auto-reply poop emoji, so we don't know if any settlement has been reached on the rent matter.
The new lawsuit alleges that Musk's attorney Alex Spiro "loudly opined that it was unreasonable for Twitter’s landlords to expect Twitter to pay rent, since San Francisco was a shithole." That doesn't really logically follow, since Shorenstein is hardly responsible for cleaning up all of San Francisco. But that sounds about right.
Last week, Twitter beat back two lawsuits from former employees, as Reuters reported. One, a class-action suit brought by former female employees who claimed that women were unfairly targeted for layoffs, was dismissed by a federal judge; and a second suit was dismissed by a different judge that alleged discrimination against workers with disabilities in Musk's whole "everybody has to be hardcore and work 80 hours" ethos surrounding the downsizing.
Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images