The CEO of a San Francisco-based communications technology company may have crossed the line — statutorily and constitutionally — regarding companywide layoffs last week.
In a message to nearly 8,000 staffers posted on the company’s website on Thursday, Twilio co-founder and CEO Jeff Lawson appeared to suggest that an 11-percent reduction in his company’s workforce would be made with an eye toward race.
“Twilio has always been a growth company,” Lawson said in announcing companywide layoffs. “And as you know, we’re committed to being a profitable growth company. At our scale, being profitable will make us stronger. … We ultimately found that some investments no longer make sense and identified areas where we can be more efficient. ”
But then the memo took on a racial element.
“As you all know, we are committed to becoming an Anti-Racist/Anti-Oppression company,” wrote the CEO. “Layoffs like this can have a more pronounced impact on marginalized communities, so we were particularly focused on ensuring our layoffs — while a business necessity today — were carried out through an Anti-Racist/Anti-Oppression lens.”
According to The Business Journals’ Bay Area Inno, “Twilio declined to comment on what it meant by conducting layoffs with an anti-racist/anti-oppression lens and whether it meant race was a factor in its layoff decisions. Companies can be sued by employees that believe they were terminated based on race, which is illegal in California and federally, based on the Civil Rights Act.”
In addition, the Constitution specifically prohibits discrimination on the basis of skin color.
According to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964:
“It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, or to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” (Emphasis added.)
But in his memo, Lawson wrote that the company “applied a rigorous selection process” to determine who would be laid off and who wouldn’t.
The Western Journal opined:
If this “rigorous” process was conducted “through an Anti-Racist/Anti-Oppression lens” and was “particularly focused” on the view that layoffs “can have a more pronounced impact on marginalized communities,” what does that mean for employees who aren’t “marginalized,” in Twilio’s view?
Blake Masters, an entrepreneur currently running as a Trump-backed Republican for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Democrat Mark Kelly, ripped Twilio and Lawson for even suggesting that race played a role in the layoffs.
“Corporations are explicitly using racial discrimination in hiring/firing and bragging about it,” Masters tweeted Wednesday.
Corporations are explicitly using racial discrimination in hiring/firing and bragging about it.
“We were particularly focused on ensuring our layoffs… were carried out through an Anti-Racist/Anti-Oppression lens." https://t.co/hyhTUhQ266
— Blake Masters (@bgmasters) September 14, 2022
It’s not clear if Lawson’s layoffs will face a legal challenge but, The Western Journal noted that corporate hiring and firing made through an “anti-racist lens” will spread without one.