Elon Musk Attracts Criticism Over Firing Employee Because of Disability

Many felt that Musk's decision to fire a top Twitter employee was rooted in ableism.
By Madison E. Goldberg
(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Twitter CEO Elon Musk is in the hot seat yet again. The richest man in the world has taken to his personal Twitter account to discuss the reasoning for a former Twitter employee’s firing. Many feel that the entire issue should have been handled privately through the company’s human resources department, but others feel that the public needed to see this conversation.

The primary cause of concern was Musk’s public mention of the employee’s disability. As an employer, it was not legally his place to disclose that information publicly. Many Twitter users felt that Musk’s stated reasons for firing the former engineer were rooted in ableism, as Musk insinuated that he lied about being disabled.

Musk’s tweets all stemmed from the employee, Haraldur Thorleifsson, alleging that he was abruptly fired without reason. His access to company resources was terminated with no notice, and after allegedly not receiving an answer privately from HR via email, Thorleiffson took the situation public.

Thorleifsson has muscular dystrophy, and designed and developed Ueno, an agency acquired by Twitter in 2021 prior to Musk’s purchase of the company. According to his official website, Thorleiffson has been awarded several honors in the U.S. and in his native Iceland, for both his accomplishments as a web designer and developer and his efforts to promote accessibility for people with disabilities globally.

He went on to clarify that Elon Musk also never answered private messages regarding his termination. Thorleiffson took the moment to educate Twitter users about his disability. He additionally explained that he began losing mobility in his fingers more recently.

Halli’s Twitter thread regarding the progression of his disability was largely met with support from the tech community and onlookers alike.

Others recognized that Musk’s handling of the situation could result in a lengthy legal battle, given that he essentially stated that Thorleifsson’s firing was due to his disability.

Musk continued to air out personal matters on his Twitter account, saying that Thorlieffson was “the worst, sorry.”

This all comes just a day after massive outages on the platform prevented users from posting and viewing any images or outbound links. It was also revealed that Musk hired bodyguards to follow him around company headquarters at all times, as he fears that his employees are staging a coup against him.

Since Musk’s purchase of the social media giant in 2022, there have been several waves of mass layoffs across different departments in the company. There have been complaints of software issues due to the now lesser amount of qualified engineers available to troubleshoot, and ethical issues regarding the spread of misinformation and the loosening of the restrictions surrounding the verification process.

In the midst of the ongoing ethical issues of Musk’s firing of an employee with a disability, he has moved on to inserting himself into another national controversy–claiming that the January 6, 2021 Capitol Riots were faked.

Regardless of public opinion on Musk’s personal character, many agree that his personal views should not be impacting one of the largest social media platforms in the world, and one that news media relies on heavily to distribute information to the public. His ethical issues within his company could reflect what is to come with the platform overall.