October 16, 2023

Complaint Alleges X Illegally Fired WOC Who Challenged Musk’s Return-To-Office Policy

Elon Musk’s X – formerly Twitter – has been accused of illegally firing an employee after she challenged its return-to-office policy. 

The complaint, the first filed by the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against X, accuses the company of violating US labor law.

Fired Over A Tweet?

In November 2022, Elon Musk  reportedly ordered workers back to the office, saying, “If you can physically make it to an office and you don’t show up, resignation accepted.”

In response, Yao Yue, then a principal software engineer at X, tweeted, “Don’t resign; let him fire you.” She also shared the message with colleagues on an internal Slack channel.

According to the NLRB’s complaint, X terminated Yue’s employment a few days later, violating the National Labor Relations Act. Yue had worked at Twitter for over 12 years.

“My old friends, new friends, and strangers, I urge you to move on to the free Internet and protect your emotional well-being from the capricious child king,” she tweeted in December 2022. 

“Be brave, and see you on the other side,” Yue continued, directing her followers to an alternative server run by Mastodon.

Read: Federal Agency Sues Tesla For Racism And Retaliation Against Black Workers

Did X Violate US Labor Law?

A regional director of the NLRB accused the company of violating the federal law prohibiting punishing employees for communicating and organizing with others about their working conditions.

The complaint, issued on behalf of the agency’s general counsel, said the company “has been interfering with, restraining and coercing employees in the exercise rights granted” under US labor law.

“By firing her in response to trying to help her co-workers, Twitter violated federal labor law,” the employee’s attorney, Shannon Liss-Riordan, said in an interview.

Complaints issued by NLRB regional directors are considered by agency judges, whose rulings can be appealed to labor board members in Washington and federal court.

The agency can change policies and reinstate workers, but it lacks the authority to fine companies with punitive damages or hold executives personally liable for violations.

A spokesperson for X didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The NLRB case database shows 17 open cases against Musk’s company, Tesla.

Featured image credits: YOW! 2017 and  JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES.

Sara Keenan

Tech Reporter at POCIT. Following her master's degree in journalism, Sara cultivated a deep passion for writing and driving positive change for Black and Brown individuals across all areas of life. This passion expanded to include the experiences of Black and Brown people in tech thanks to her internship experience as an editorial assistant at a tech startup.