Elon Musk apologizes after mocking, questioning disability of Twitter employee

"Your head of HR is not able to confirm if I am employed or not," Twitter employee Haraldur Thorleifsson tweeted at CEO Elon Musk after finding himself locked out of his work computer. Musk quizzed him about his work duties and questioned his disability and need for accommodations before eventually apologizing.

Haraldur Thorleifsson tweeted at social media giant's CEO after finding himself unable to log in for work

Man with brown hair and wearing suit and tie walks outside an office building and looks in the distance.
Twitter CEO Elon Musk exits a court house in San Francisco on Jan. 24. Musk apologized Tuesday after a surreal Twitter exchange with an employee who tweeted at him to ask about his job status when he found himself locked out of his work computer. Musk mocked the man, who has muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair, and grilled him about what he did at the social media company. (The Associated Press)

If you're not told you are fired, are you really fired? At Twitter, probably. And then, sometimes, you get your job back — if you want it.

Haraldur Thorleifsson, who until recently was employed at Twitter, logged in to his computer last Sunday to do some work — only to find himself locked out, along with 200 others.

He might have figured, as others before him have in the chaotic months of layoffs and firings since Elon Musk took over the company, that he was out of a job. Instead, after nine days of no answer from Twitter as to whether or not he was still employed, Thorleifsson decided to tweet at Musk to see if he could catch the billionaire's attention and get an answer to his Schrodinger's job situation.

"Your head of HR is not able to confirm if I am employed or not," he wrote on Monday. "Maybe if enough people retweet you'll answer me here?" 

Eventually, he got his answer after a surreal Twitter exchange with Musk, who proceeded to quiz him about his work and question his disability and need for accommodations.

Thorleifsson, who goes by "Halli," has muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair. Musk went on to tweet that Thorleifsson has a "prominent, active Twitter account and is wealthy" noting that the "reason he confronted me in public was to get a big payout."

While the exchange was going on, Thorleifsson said he received an email telling him that he was no longer employed at Twitter.

Late Tuesday afternoon, however, Musk had a change of heart.

Musk apologizes for 'misunderstanding'

"I would like 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," he tweeted. "He is considering remaining at Twitter."

Thorleifsson did not immediately respond to a message for comment following Musk's tweet. In an earlier email, he called the experience "surreal."

"You had every right to lay me off. But it would have been nice to let me know!" he tweeted to Musk.

Thorleifsson, who lives in Iceland, has about 151,000 Twitter followers. He joined Twitter in 2021, when the company, under the prior management, acquired his startup, Ueno.

He was lauded in Icelandic media for choosing to receive the purchase price in wages rather than a lump sum payout. That's because this way, he would pay higher taxes to Iceland in support of its social services and safety net.

Thorleifsson's next move: "I'm opening a restaurant in downtown Reykjavik very soon," he tweeted. "It's named after my mom."

Twitter did not immediately respond to a message for comment.