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Twitter sued over short-notice layoffs as Elon Musk's takeover rocks company

The class-action lawsuit was filed Thursday in federal court in San Francisco and alleges Twitter violated the WARN Act.

A lawsuit was filed against Twitter on Thursday alleging the social media company now headed by Elon Musk violated federal and state law that requires 60 days' notice of mass layoffs, according to a court document.

The suit filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco names five current or former workers as plaintiffs, one of whom was told he was terminated effective Tuesday, according to the lawsuit. It names Twitter as the defendant.

But Twitter told employees it will continue to provide pay and benefits, even though they are no longer working. An email from Twitter sent to laid off employees in New York and seen by NBC News said Friday was their last "working day" at the company but that they would be paid through their separation date in February. Another Twitter employee who received a severance email and asked to withold their name also said they were told they would be paid until early February with full benefits.

Three other staff members have been locked out of their Twitter accounts as of Thursday with no formal notice of a layoff, which they interpret to mean they will lose their jobs, according to the lawsuit.

"Twitter is now engaged in conducting mass layoffs without providing the required notice under the federal WARN Act," the lawsuit says, referring to the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act that requires 60-day notice for certain plant closings or mass layoffs.

In an email to staff members obtained by NBC News, Twitter said Thursday it would begin layoffs in “an effort to place Twitter on a healthy path.” The email said staffers would get notices by email about their employment status.

It had been widely reported that Musk planned to slash the company’s 7,500-person payroll after finalizing the acquisition of Twitter last week. The final number of layoffs isn't clear.

The suit seeks a court to declare that Twitter is violating the WARN Act and to prevent it from doing so. It also seeks to prevent Twitter from trying to obtain releases from workers without informing them of their rights and the lawsuit, according to the document.

Bloomberg reported about the lawsuit late Thursday. Shannon Liss-Riordan, the attorney who filed the complaint, told the news outlet that workers need to know their rights.

“We filed this lawsuit tonight in an attempt the make sure that employees are aware that they should not sign away their rights and that they have an avenue for pursuing their rights,” Liss-Riordan told Bloomberg.

Twitter did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment early Friday.

The lawsuit says news reports suggest there would widespread layoffs beginning Friday.

A Twitter employee told NBC News that Thursday’s email was the first communication staff members had received from the company since the acquisition Oct. 27.

“It’s total chaos, house melting down, everyone looking towards this email,” the employee said.

Twitter’s headquarters are in San Francisco.

Four of the workers listed as plaintiffs in the suit worked in San Francisco, and a fifth worked at the company’s office in Cambridge, Massachusetts, according to the suit.