An Irish-based senior Twitter executive has secured a temporary High Court injunction preventing the social media firm from terminating her employment.
The order was secured by Sinead McSweeney, who is Twitter’s global vice-president for public policy.
She claims that by not responding to a generic and vague email sent to all Twitter employees by its owner, multibillionaire Elon Musk, earlier this month, she has been treated as if she is no longer employed by the company.
While the company allegedly informed her she had accepted an exit package, Ms McSweeney says she did not resign. She has been locked out of Twitter’s Dublin office and its internal IT systems, including her company email account.
The court heard that solicitors’ letters on her behalf were sent to the company. Twitter’s lawyers acknowledged she had no intention to resign, confirmed that her commitment to her work “had never been questioned”, and said her access to the IT systems would be restored.
While the communication was welcome, Ms McSweeney said, she is concerned about her job because of the “mixed messages” she had been getting from Mr Musk and his senior US-based associates since the company was taken over.
Despite the communication from the company, she remains locked out of the IT systems and Twitter’s Dublin office. She was also unable to attend a scheduled meeting at the Dublin office as she was unable to enter the building, leaving her embarrassed, humiliated and upset.
She claims she is “unable to work” and fears the company has “resigned me”, contrary to the terms of her employment.
She claims that despite her contractual entitlements the defendant cannot be trusted. Mr Musk, she claims, has been running the company “in an unorthodox manner” and has been rehiring and firing “with no apparent logic” in a way she claims is unlawful.
At the High Court on Friday afternoon Mr Justice Brian O’Moore granted Ms McSweeney an interim injunction preventing Twitter International Unlimited Company from terminating her contract of employment.
The injunction, which was granted while only the plaintiff was in court, also restrains Twitter from applying the terms of an email sent to her on November 16th by Mr Musk to her contract or condition of employment. She further secured an order restraining Twitter from communicating to any third party or publishing any information to convey that her employment with the company has been in any way altered since the 15th of November last.
The orders are to remain in place until further order of the court.
Based on the information put before the court, Mr Justice O’Moore was satisfied to make the temporary injunction sought.
The judge noted that it is Ms McSweeney’s case that despite the correspondence from Twitter’s lawyers she now finds herself in “no man’s land” in relation to her employment.
The judge said that he was not satisfied at this stage to make an order directing Twitter to reinstate her to her role so she could get access to Twitter’s officers and IT systems.
Represented by Frank Beatty SC, instructed by solicitor Adrian Twomey, Ms McSweeney said that while she had no difficulty “putting my shoulder to the wheel” during a hectic period for Twitter, she said work has become difficult since the takeover.
In a sworn statement to the court, Ms McSweeney said she often worked more than 40 hours per week, as required under her contract.
Since Twitter’s takeover, she said, her workload has increased to more than 75 hours a week because many Twitter employees have been summarily dismissed.
Ms McSweeney said she is a widow and the mother of a teenage son.
She said in her statement that she has held discussions with Mr Musk and some of his senior associates about the company’s future and, in particular about cost reduction, reducing members of staff in her section as well as elsewhere in the company.
While cuts were sought in her area of responsibility, she had a telephone conversation with Mr Musk on November 13th where, she claims, he said any excellent staff who were let go should be reinstated.
She said he added that the criteria for reinstatement was “that the individual was excellent, performing a critical role” and was “not negative”.
She said “he accepted that people could be talented but might impact the team negatively and he stated that he did not want assholes”.
She said in her statement that she was “temporarily reassured” by what Mr Musk said but two days later she was informed by an email on behalf of an associate of Mr Musk that a decision had been taken to reduce the size of the Twitter’s public policy team by 20 per cent.
In the email sent by Mr Musk on November 16th the billionaire said that “going forward, to build a breakthrough Twitter 2.0 and succeed in an increasing competitive world, we will need to be extremely hardcore”.
“This will mean working long hours at high intensity. Only exceptional performance will constitute a passing grade”.
The email asked employees if “you are sure that you want to be part of the new Twitter please click yes on the link provided”.
“Anyone who had not done so” by November 17th “will receive three months of severance”.
“Whatever decision you make thank you for your efforts to make Twitter successful,” the message said.
She claims that arising out of the email she and other employees were offered “exit packages” based on their location.
Due to the lack of clarity over several issues concerning her contract of employment, which were of concern to her and other workers, Ms McSweeney said she did not click yes.
She said the exit package did not meet her contractual entitlements and for those who wished to remain with Twitter the terms and conditions in relation to what Mr Musk expected of them was not set out in the document.
She said Mr Musk said he expected staff to work from the office so employees can “do their jobs at the highest level” and during normal office working hours.
She had no problem with working hard hours but was not prepared to commit to an indeterminable expectation where she said information about changes to her benefits had not been given.
She said she discovered on November 18th that she had been locked out of Twitter’s IT system and got an email to her personal account acknowledging her “voluntary resignation” and had agreed to her severance.
She claims she is being treated as if she has left the company, and remains locked out.
This, it is claimed, has left her with no choice but to seek an injunction.
The matter will return to the court next week.