Musk tweet about ‘being a Mom’ keeps former X engineer’s sex bias claim alive

A former software engineer at X provided sufficient evidence to move forward with her sex discrimination claims — but not her age discrimination claims — a California district court held March 29 in Frederick-Osborn, et. al. v. Twitter Inc. and X Corp

In making its decision, the court considered Elon Musk’s behavior before and after purchasing X, then called Twitter, in October 2022. Musk implemented a reduction in force immediately following the purchase. On Nov. 16, he sent an “‘ultimatum’ email” to the remaining employees, asking them to agree to being “extremely hardcore,” including “working long hours at high intensity,” court documents showed. Employees who did not click “yes” on the agreement within the day would be terminated. 

The worker did not click “yes,” which X argued constituted a voluntary resignation. However, the court agreed with the worker that she suffered an adverse employment action in terms of an involuntary termination, noting that the email did not ask workers to resign affirmatively. Rather, “Twitter terminated Plaintiff because of her inaction,” the district court said, “…unilaterally terminat[ing] her employment.”

The court also found the worker plausibly argued a disparate treatment claim. Musk’s public comments about women — such as an earlier tweet that “Being a Mom is just as important as any career” — suggested he expected the new “hardcore” expectations would affect them disproportionately.

The facts “plausibly support an inference Musk, the owner and CEO of Twitter, had a discriminatory intent to have more women than men ‘forced out of the company’ when he implemented the Post-RIF Policies and sent out the ultimatum email because he expected women to be less committed to their career and thus less likely to consent to these changes,” the court said.  

The court, however, dismissed the worker’s allegations of discrimination against workers 50 and older. A single comment from Musk about older workers — about their supposed reluctance to embrace new ideas — “does not directly address older people’s willingness or ability to commit to long and intense work,” the court said. 

The court battle is just one of many over the past few years for Musk and his companies, which also include SpaceX and Tesla.