TikTok employee files separate lawsuit against Trump administration over executive order
The Trump administration was hit with a second TikTok lawsuit Monday when an employee of the social media firm sued in an attempt to block enforcement of an order that he says could prevent U.S.-based workers from receiving their paychecks.
In a lawsuit filed in the federal court for the Northern District of California, Patrick Ryan, a technical program manager at TikTok, alleged that President Trump’s order banning the short-form video app in the U.S. violates employees’ constitutional right to due process.
He also alleged the order’s ban on transactions with the app means that roughly 1,500 U.S.-based employees of TikTok and its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, are at risk of losing their paychecks.
The complaint asks the court to stop the administration from extending the effect of the executive order on U.S.-based TikTok workers’ wages and salaries.
Earlier in the day, the company filed a lawsuit in federal court in California that similarly argues Trump’s order violates due process rights.
“We made a lot of similar arguments and claims,” said Alexander Urbelis, a partner with Blackstone Law Group, the firm that filed the suit on behalf of Ryan. “From our perspective, this is about protecting the wages and salaries of families and employees.”
Trump earlier this month signed executive orders effectively banning a pair of social media apps with links to China on grounds that they posed a threat to national security and foreign policy. The president’s order targeting TikTok cited concerns about the company’s collection of user data and the potential for it to be shared with the communist government in Beijing.
It declared that any transaction with ByteDance would be prohibited in the U.S. in 45 days. According to the order, the Commerce Department will define what qualifies as a prohibited transaction when it goes into effect on Sept. 20. Trump issued a separate order on Aug. 14 demanding ByteDance divest its American assets and any data it obtained from U.S. TikTok users.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross could exempt wages and salaries from the list of banned transactions, but Monday’s lawsuit from Ryan says it’s impossible to know what decisions Ross will make until the order takes effect.
“The 1,500 TikTok employees working in the U.S. – as well as their families – need to know whether they will be paid next month,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit alleges U.S. TikTok employees are being used as “pawns in a political spitting match between China and Trump, who has decided to make ‘Tough on China’ a central theme of his embattled re-election campaign.”
The complaint came down just hours after representatives from TikTok filed a lawsuit of their own seeking to fight the administration’s order. TikTok’s suit alleges that the executive action deprives the company of due process and that Trump has failed to offer evidence supporting the national security grounds for the order. The company has repeatedly denied allegations of sharing data with China.
Trump issued the TikTok order by invoking the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, a 1977 law that grants the president power to regulate international commerce after declaring a national emergency.
But attorneys for Ryan argue there have to be boundaries for what Trump can and cannot do.
According to the lawsuit, many TikTok employees working in the U.S. have H-1B visas, which require that employers sponsor their visa status. It adds that more than 1,000 U.S. workers have left different jobs to join TikTok in the past year. TikTok’s own lawsuit noted it is planning to hire roughly 10,000 additional employees in the U.S. in the coming years.
The lawsuits come as TikTok has explodes in popularity, with more than 100 million users in the U.S. and about 2.3 billion downloads worldwide.
Ryan, a former lawyer who joined TikTok earlier this year, put in motion the separate legal challenge on Aug. 11 by launching a crowdfunding campaign to financially support his case. A GoFundMe has raised about half of its $30,000 goal, which Ryan believes is enough to obtain an injunction. He told The Hill the effort would not seek any damages or additional legal challenges.
Following the executive order, Trump expressed support for allowing TikTok to keep operating in the U.S. under an American company. Microsoft has emerged as the favorite to score a deal to maintain the company’s U.S. operations. Oracle is also reportedly in talks with ByteDance about a sale.