Elon Musk publicly mocks disabled Twitter employee who is unsure if he has been fired

New York (CNN) Elon Musk has apologized after publicly mocking a Twitter employee’s uncertainty about whether he had been made redundant in a recent round of job cuts and spoke dismissively about employee’s handicap in a series of tweets on Monday night.

“I want to apologize to Halli for my misunderstanding of his situation. It was based on things I was told were untrue or, in some cases, true but not meaningful,” Musk tweeted Tuesday. “He’s considering staying on Twitter.”

Earlier, Haraldur Thorleifsson, an Iceland-based Twitter senior executive, tweeted to Musk that access to his computer had been cut off nine days earlier when Twitter reportedly laid off around 200 employees. But, Thorleifsson said in his tweet, “your HR manager is unable to confirm whether I am employed or not.”

Musk responded in a tweet, asking, “What work have you done?” When Thorleifsson provided a list of his tasks in response, Musk appeared to cast doubt on several points. “Photos otherwise it didn’t happen,” he tweeted. In a separate tweet, the billionaire said Thorleifsson “didn’t do any real work, claiming as an excuse that he had a disability that prevented him from writing.”

Thorleifsson clarified in a tweet that he has muscular dystrophy, a degenerative disease that he says put him in a wheelchair more than 20 years ago. Thorleifsson, who founded a digital branding company acquired by Twitter in 2021, has been recognized by the United Nations and Iceland’s president for spearheading a charitable effort to build 1,000 wheelchair ramps around Reykjavik to increase the city’s accessibility.

“I am unable to do manual work (which in this case means typing or using a mouse) for any length of time without my hands starting to cramp,” he said. “However, I can write for an hour or two at a time. This was not a problem in Twitter 1.0 when I was a senior director and my job was mostly to help teams move forward, giving them strategic and tactical advice.”

Thorleifsson did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment. Twitter, which has cut much of its PR department, also did not respond.

This is not the first time Musk, one of the richest men in the world, has publicly mocked employees at Twitter, the company he bought for $44 billion last year. He has feuded on the platform with former Twitter bosses, fired employees who criticized him and, in one case, publicly called out a former employee’s tweets about him, saying they were the result of “a tragic case of Tourette’s coming of age.”

The harrowing sight of a company owner publicly mocking an employee highlights the unique corporate circus that Twitter employees have experienced over the past year. Musk threatened to bail on the deal and then completed the purchase, only to continue with more rounds of layoffs. Hundreds of former Twitter employees are now taking legal action against the company, alleging broken severance promises and, in some cases, discrimination, including against disabled employees.

In the meantime the platform seems to be struggling to stay online. On Monday, Twitter experienced one of its biggest outages since Musk’s takeover, with many users completely unable to access the site and others having trouble clicking links or viewing images for about an hour. It was the third major technical failure Twitter has faced in less than a month, as Musk has cut staff from about 7,500 workers before his takeover to fewer than 2,000 and engaged in a series of other cuts.

After the exchange with Musk, Thorleifsson said in a tweet that Twitter’s HR chief had confirmed that he is no longer employed by the company.

“Which is perfectly fine and it happens all the time… They used to tell people about it, but apparently it’s the optional part on Twitter now,” he said. “However, the next thing is to find out if Twitter will pay me what they owe me under my contract.”

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