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Elon Musk publicly mocks Twitter worker with disability who is unsure if he is laid off

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

“I want 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,”[ads1]; Musk tweeted Tuesday. “He’s considering staying on Twitter.”

Earlier, Haraldur Thorleifsson, a senior director of Twitter in Iceland, 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 cannot 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. “Pictures or nothing, it didn’t happen,” he tweeted. In a separate tweet, the billionaire said that Thorleifsson “did no actual 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 charity effort to build 1,000 wheelchair ramps around Reykjavik to increase the city’s accessibility.

“I am unable to do manual labor (which in this case means typing or using a mouse) for extended periods 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 since 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.

It 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 executives, 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 adult-onset Tourette’s.”

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

Meanwhile, 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 glitch Twitter has faced in less than a month, as Musk has cut staff from about 7,500 workers before the takeover to fewer than 2,000 and engaged in a series of other cost-cutting measures.

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 totally fine and it happens all the time … They usually 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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