Elon Musk apologizes after mocking laid-off Twitter employee with disability
SAN FRANCISCO — If you're not told you are fired, are you really fired? At Twitter, probably. And then, sometimes, you get your job back — if you want it.
Haraldur Thorleifsson, who until recently was employed at Twitter, logged in to his computer last Sunday to do some work — only to find himself locked out, along with 200 others.
He might have figured, as others before him have in the chaotic months of layoffs and firings since Elon Musk took over the company, that he was out of a job.
Instead, after nine days of no answer from Twitter as to whether or not he was still employed, Thorleifsson decided to tweet at Musk to see if he could catch the billionaire's attention and get an answer to his Schrödinger's job situation.
"Maybe if enough people retweet you'll answer me here?" he wrote on Monday.
Eventually, he got his answer after a surreal Twitter exchange with Musk, who proceeded to quiz him about his work, question his disability and need for accommodations (Thorleifsson, who goes by "Halli," has muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair) and tweet that Thorleifsson has a "prominent, active Twitter account and is wealthy" and the "reason he confronted me in public was to get a big payout." While the exchange was going on, Thorleifsson said he received an email that he was no longer employed.
Late Tuesday afternoon, however, Musk had a change of heart.
"I would like to apologize to Halli for my misunderstanding of his situation. It was based on things I was told that were untrue or, in some cases, true, but not meaningful," he tweeted. "He is considering remaining at Twitter."
I would like to apologize to Halli for my misunderstanding of his situation. It was based on things I was told that were untrue or, in some cases, true, but not meaningful.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 7, 2023
He is considering remaining at Twitter.
Thorleifsson did not immediately respond to a message for comment following Musk's tweet. In an earlier email, he called the experience "surreal."
"You had every right to lay me off. But it would have been nice to let me know!" he tweeted to Musk.
Thorleifsson, who lives in Iceland, has about 151,000 Twitter followers (Musk has over 130 million). He joined Twitter in 2021, when the company, under the prior management, acquired his startup Ueno.
He was lauded in Icelandic media for choosing to receive the purchase price in wages rather than a lump sum payout. That's because this way, he would pay higher taxes to Iceland in support of its social services and safety net.
Thorleifsson's next move: "I'm opening a restaurant in downtown Reykjavik very soon," he tweeted. "It's named after my mom."
Twitter did not immediately respond to a message for comment.
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