Over 400 employees of scooter sharing start-up Bird were laid off via a two-minute Zoom webinar last week, in which a “robotic-sounding, disembodied voice” informed staffers that their roles would be affected by a mass layoff. According to dot.LA, 406 employees—between 30 and 40 percent of Bird’s workforce—were invited to a Zoom webinar called “COVID-19 Update” last Friday morning, giving them no indication that they were about to be laid off. The meeting reportedly started with five minutes of silence before a woman’s voice came on the webinar. She said it was a “suboptimal way to deliver this message” before stating that there had been a decision to “eliminate a number of roles at the company.” “Unfortunately your role is impacted by this decision,” she said.
The woman’s voice reportedly sounded like she was choking up towards the end. Affected employees were locked out of their Bird-issued computers about 10 minutes after the webinar started and employees who weren’t working at the time reportedly found out about layoffs through a news article. Bird founder Travis VanderZanden claimed on Twitter that the webinar was not pre-recorded and said video was turned off so the process could be “more humane.” “In retrospect, we should’ve made [one-on-one] calls to the 100s impacted over the course of a few days,” he wrote. In a statement, the company said layoffs were “never easy or comfortable to do” and they “wish that the entire situation could have been avoided.”