New York (CNN) Elon Musk publicly mocked a Twitter employee’s uncertainty about whether he had been fired in a recent round of budget cuts and spoke dismissively of the staff disability in a series of tweets Monday night. It’s the latest example of the billionaire openly antagonizing current and former staffers at his company.
Haraldur Thorleifsson, an Iceland-based senior director of Twitter, tweeted to Musk that access to his computer had been cut off nine days earlier, when Twitter reportedly laid off some 200 employees. But, Thorleifsson said in his tweet, “Your head of HR cannot confirm whether I am an employee or not.”
Musk responded in a tweet asking, “What kind of work have you done?” When Thorleifsson drew up a list of his tasks in response, Musk seemed to cast doubt on several points. “Pictures or 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 typing.”
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 that was acquired by Twitter in 2021, has been recognized by the United Nations and the President of Iceland for leading 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 extended periods of time without my hands getting cramped,” he said. “However, I can write for an hour or two straight. This wasn’t a problem in Twitter 1.0 as I was a senior director and my job was to move teams forward, give them strategic and tactical advice.”
Thorleifsson did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment. Twitter, which has cut much of its public relations department, also did not respond.
It is not the first time Musk, one of the richest men in the world, has publicly mocked employees of Twitter, the company he bought for $44 billion last year. He has argued with former Twitter executives on the platform, fired employees who criticized him, and in one instance publicly called out a former employee’s tweets about him being the result of “a tragic case of Gilles de la Tourette in adulthood” .
The shocking spectacle of a business owner publicly mocking an employee highlights the unique corporate circus that Twitter employees have experienced over the past year. Musk threatened to give up on the deal and then completed the acquisition only to go through multiple rounds of layoffs. Hundreds of former Twitter employees are now taking legal action against the company, alleging broken redundancy 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 the Musk acquisition, with many users unable to open the site at all and others having trouble clicking links or viewing photos for about an hour. It was Twitter’s third major technical outage in less than a month, as Musk reduced its workforce from about 7,500 pre-acquisition employees to less than 2,000 and engaged in a range of other cost-cutting measures.
Following the conversation with Musk, Thorleifsson said in a tweet that Twitter’s head of HR had confirmed he was no longer with the company.
“That’s totally okay and it happens all the time… They usually tell people about it, but apparently that’s the optional part with Twitter now,” he said. “The next thing, though, is figuring out if Twitter will pay me what they owe me under my contract.”