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Elon Musk targets laid-off Twitter employee by claiming he used his disability as an excuse

In a Twitter post with screenshots of the exchange, Musk claimed the employee “did no actual work” and used his disability as an excuse.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk
Twitter CEO Elon Musk.Ringo H.W. Chiu / AP file

Elon Musk took aim at a disabled Twitter employee Monday who tagged him in a tweet to ask if he'd been laid off.

Haraldur Thorleifsson, who has a form of muscular dystrophy called Dysferlinopathy and uses a wheelchair, tweeted at the Twitter CEO on Monday to say that access to his work computer had been cut off.

"However your head of HR is not able to confirm if I am an employee or not. You’ve not answered my emails," Thorleifsson wrote. "Maybe if enough people retweet you’ll answer me here?"

Musk responded, asking Thorleifsson what work he's been doing for the company. Thorleifsson confirmed on the thread that he'd finally heard back from HR and no longer works at Twitter.

On a Twitter post with screenshots of the exchange, Musk claimed Thorleifsson "did no actual work" and used his disability as an excuse.

"The reality is that this guy (who is independently wealthy) did no actual work, claimed as his excuse that he had a disability that prevented him from typing, yet was simultaneously tweeting up a storm," Musk wrote. "Can’t say I have a lot of respect for that."

In another tweet, Musk said Thorleifsson couldn't be fired because "you can’t be fired if you weren’t working in the first place!"

Thorleifsson responded to the CEO with a thread about his disability, which he says put him in a wheelchair 20 years ago.

"In that time the rest of my body has been failing me too. I need help to get in and out of bed and use the toilet," he wrote. "For a long time I thought my arms would remain strong. A doctor told me they would. But they ended up losing strength. Which, I don’t mind telling you, was hard to accept."

Later Tuesday, Musk tweeted that he had a video call with Thorleifsson. He also apologized and said Thorleifsson is considering staying at Twitter.

Musk has reportedly continued to lay off employees, further whittling the company's headcount from when he took control in October.

According to his website, Thorleifsson, who is originally from Iceland and was voted the country's person of the year in 2022, started a design company called Ueno about nine years ago.

"We grew fast and made money. I think that’s what you are referring to when you say independently wealthy? That I independently made my money, as opposed to say, inherited an emerald mine," Thorleifsson wrote in a tweet, taking aim at rumors that Musk's family owned an emerald mine.

Thorleifsson's company was acquired by Twitter in 2021, a move he said wasn't the best decision financially. He also addressed Musk's claims that he used his disability as an excuse not to type, which he says was confidential health information he told HR.

"I’ll tell you what I told them. I’m not able to do manual work (which in this case means typing or using a mouse) for extended periods of time without my hands starting to cramp," he wrote. "I can however write for an hour or two at a time."

Thorleifsson ended the thread by asking the Twitter CEO whether he is going to pay him what is owed to him.

"I think you can afford it?" he wrote.

Thorleifsson and Twitter did not respond to requests for comment.