When Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, decided to lay off half the employees of the company he had just bought for $44 billion, it was obvious there was going to be trouble.
But in some cases, those who were told their services were no longer needed faced a double humiliation: They were owed thousands of dollars by the company with no idea when they would be paid back.
The scale of Musk’s firings — which have now extended to firing people who criticized him publicly or privately — have left former employees in a kind of financial purgatory. And an email ultimatum delivered by Musk to employees demanding they work harder or quit appeared to backfire Thursday night, leading to a mass exodus and even fewer workers to run the company.
“People were spending for October while we were all busy … that hasn’t come through,” says a former UK Twitter employee who asked to remain anonymous and was let go as part of Musk’s initial layoffs in early November. Luck. The employee has about $1,000 in unpaid expenses, but says he knows others who have up to £4,000 ($4,750) in unreimbursed travel expenses.
These expenses have been charged to American Express credit cards and these employees are now on the hook for late payment fees.
Snapshots of conversations from days ago in internal company Slack channels reviewed by Luck show several people asking about missing expense reimbursements and confused about how the process works for laid-off workers.
“I know there are a lot of people on this channel asking, but I keep getting more people on my team asking about what the expense update is,” one employee wrote.
“I’m really worried about how long this is going on,” wrote another worker.
Former employees say group chats have been filled with ex-colleagues advising people who currently owe expenses to pay off any outstanding amounts to avoid late card payments – but it’s not that easy.
“Some people say, ‘I don’t have that money,'” says the former Twitter UK employee Luck. “I was relying on Twitter to give it to me. People are in really difficult situations here.”
Payments and expenses on Twitter are submitted through a system called Concur, pre-approved by an AI, and then sent to an administrator for inventory. If the expense is approved by the administrator, it is then processed and paid out within about a week.
Expenses owed to some laid-off employees were processed three weeks ago, before Musk took over the company. “Not only has he not [been paid out], but it has disappeared from Concur,” says the former UK employee. “There are a lot of people on Signal channels who are very scared of not getting £400 to £8,000 in back fees.”
Former staff frantically sent email addresses provided to them after they were cut from the company to try to figure out how to pay those expenses — with no luck.
“Apparently everyone has been fired,” says the former employee. “So nobody gets any answers. I don’t know what’s happening now.”
Earlier this week, Musk sent a middle-of-the-night email to the rest of the staff telling them they could either commit to a new “extremely hard-line” work culture at the company or leave. About 1,000 to 1,200 additional employees are believed to have left the company as of Thursday afternoon, and it is unclear how many people still remain at the social networking site.
A current US Twitter employee who still works for the company said Luck that one of his expense reports had been approved but not paid. Another was not approved by his manager because his manager was fired.
“The response we have received is that they have been overwhelmed as everyone rushed to submit expenses as soon as the layoffs became known,” he said. Luck. He estimates he owes nearly $1,000.
“A lot of people probably owe a lot [because] many used wellness and learning allowances,” the current Twitter employee said. “Also, I’ve heard of people who went off-site or traveled to have it worse.”
Twitter does not currently have a contact section, therefore Luck could not be reached for comment.
This story was originally featured on Fortune.com
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