Elon Musk spats with former Twitter employee with disability

Twitter CEO Elon Musk on Tuesday criticized a former employee with a disability after the worker inquired about whether he’d been laid off by the social media giant. 

Haraldur Thorleifsson, whose bio says he “led an innovation team” at Twitter, reached out to Musk publicly on the platform to say that his work computer access had been cut off for over a week, but that Twitter’s HR wasn’t able to confirm his employment status. 

“You’ve not answered my emails. Maybe if enough people retweet you’ll answer me here?” Thorleifsson Tweeted.

Musk responded by asking, “What work have you been doing?”

Thorleifsson listed a number of tasks he purportedly performed at the company, among which was “led design crits to help level up design across the company.” 

“Level up from what design to what? Pics or it didn’t happen,” Musk said, to which Thorleifsson countered that his work laptop was locked, barring access to “any pics or docs.”

“Would you say that you’re a people person?” Musk wrote, sharing a video clip from the movie “Office Space” in which an employee is asked “What would you say you do here?” 

Musk later replied to a separate thread discussing the exchange to claim that Thorleifsson “did no actual work” while at Twitter.

“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 said. 

Thorliefsson explained in a reply that he has muscular dystrophy and has been using a wheelchair for the last 20 years. 

“I’m not able to do manual work (which in this case means typing or using a mouse) for extended periods of time without my hands starting to cramp… I can however write for an hour or two at a time,” Thorliefsson said. “This wasn’t a problem in Twitter 1.0 since I was a senior director and my job was mostly to help teams move forward, give them strategic and tactical guidance.”

The former Twitter employee said he sold his company Ueno to the social media app amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My company was making a lot of money and Twitter’s offer was lower than any smart valuation would say. But like you I made a bet on Twitter having a lot more potential than it has had,” Thorliefsson said to Musk, referencing the Tesla CEO’s controversial acquisition of the company last year. 

Musk’s takeover of Twitter has been rife with platform issues and concerns about security and content moderation on the app. Twitter’s leadership has been largely reshuffled and staff has been significantly slashed.

Thorliefsson said he eventually got confirmation from HR that his employment with the company had been terminated. 

“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,” he said to Musk. “Maybe with a letter or something. Which didn’t happen for 9 days despite multiple emails to you and others.”